Men's Soccer Plays First Exhibition Match at Northern Illinois
Previewing the Season: Rebuilding will be the key word at Wish Field this season for both the team and the facility. Head coach Craig Blazer returns 17 players from a year ago while Wish Field is in the midst of a two-year renovation project. When completed the facility will feature a FieldTurf playing surface, a soccer scoreboard, soccer pressbox, bleachers and team benches. The unique FieldTurf system gives the facility the ability to host both softball and soccer with a tray system that can be removed for softball.
After posting just three victories a year ago, the DePaul men’s soccer team looks to return to the form that saw them win 16 games over a two-year span in 2002 and 2003. In the group of 17 players returning there are eight starters from a young 2003 squad that played in eight overtime games. Youth will be on DePaul’s side again in 2004 as 15 players will either be freshmen or sophomores.
"We have six seniors who have their roles as leaders on this team. This group really brings in a foundation of a team and hard work," said Blazer. "They're going to have a strong make-up and strong character. With the injuries last year we also return some players that have a lot of experience. They are some young players with experience. We have the biggest incoming class of freshmen and a transfer that are talented players, but it's a new level that they have to figure out. After it's all said and done, the ball is round and we have to play soccer. Our guys know how to do that."
Offensively, the Blue Demons managed a total of just 14 goals in 2003. Luke Rojo, who missed the entire 2004 season with an injury, is ranked among DePaul’s top 15 all-time scorers. As a junior, he had four goals and three assists after totaling seven goals and four assists in 2002. Junior John Partyka is the top returning scorer from last season as he scored three goals with two assists. Sophomore forward Julian Chill didn’t find the back of the net during his rookie campaign, but he led the Blue Demons with five assists. All-Freshman Conference
Defensively, DePaul will look to senior Robert Beard and junior Patrick Ferrell to anchor the backfield. Senior goalkeeper Michael Timlin is back after totaling 39 saves in 10 matches a year ago. In addition to his three goals and two assists, Partyka will also play in the backfield. Others returners that can provide defensive stability include Kurt Albrecht, Jeff DeGroot and Alec Kulinczenko.
"This group who are seniors now is my first recruiting class. Those guys with the current juniors are part of the two seasons that we didn't allow a lot of goals and set records for consecutive shutouts at home," said Blazer. "Those guys understand what Wish Field about. The field and surroundings brings challenges to visiting teams. As a result, it should play to our strengths."
Blazer welcomes nine newcomers to
"Coming in, they're already going to provide competition for our returning players," said Blazer. "They'll have an opportunity to play if it presents itself. This is a talented group. We've always had freshman come in and make an impact. We expect an impact from these guys as well."
The Blue Demons face a challenging slate as they play their first season in the BIG EAST Conference. Following three exhibition matches, the Blue Demons open the 2005 campaign with the Holiday Inn City Centre Classic hosted by
"I think we have to start with the idea of going into the BIG EAST that it is one of the top conferences in the country," said Blazer. "It's an opportunity to play some teams we know with the crossover teams from Conference
DePaul hosts St. Francis (
The BIG EAST Tournament starts with first round games at campus sites. The higher-seeded team will be the host with the top two teams earning first-round byes. Quarterfinals will be played the following weekend at campus sites with the higher seed hosting. The semifinals and championship match will be played in
Preseason Picks: The Blue Demons were picked to finish eighth in the Red Division of the BIG EAST Preseason Poll. The BIG EAST Conference features a pair of eight-team divisions with the top 12 overall teams advancing to the league tournament.
Home-Opening Weekend: Following the Holiday Inn City Centre Classic at Bradley over Labor Day Weekend, the Blue Demons open the home portion of the schedule on Sept. 9 against St. Francis (