Mason men's soccer hosts annual DC College Cup this weekend

Mason men's soccer returns 22 players from last season's team (Photo courtesy of Mason Athletics).
Mason men's soccer returns 22 players from last season's team (Photo courtesy of Mason Athletics).

This weekend, August 30-September 1, George Mason University will host the 13th edition of the D.C. College Cup, an annual men’s soccer tournament involving DC-area teams. Along with Mason, the tournament features Howard University, George Washington University and American University.

The tournament opens on Friday, when the George Washington Colonials face the American Eagles at 5:30 p.m. Following the conclusion of that game, the Patriots will open their play against the Howard Bison at 7:30 p.m. in a rematch from 2011, when the Patriots came on top 9-0.

On Sunday, the Bison will face the Colonials at 5 p.m. while Mason plays against American at 7 p.m. in a repeat of the match which determined last year’s champion. The Patriots won 2-1 with a double-overtime goal by then-sophomore Timi Mulgrew.

The champion in the round-robin will be determined by the classic point system, with three points being awarded for a win and one for each team in case of a draw.

The three-time defending champion Patriots go into the tournament after winning their last two exhibition contests against Lehigh and Campbell 3-0 and 3-1, respectively. The Patriots have 22 players returning from last season, including starting goalkeeper Dustin Butcher, sophomores Ryan Harmouche and Brice Colcombe, juniors Mulgrew and Brennan Zizi, seniors Hugh Roberts, Zak Haapaoja, Julio Arjona, Wes Severs, and redshirt seniors Chase Miller and Laurent Newsome. In addition, head coach Greg Andrulis recruited 21 freshmen this offseason, including German international and VfB Stuttgart youth product Steffen Kraus. Another freshman, midfielder Zach Herstek, has been named on the Atlantic 10 conference All-Rookie Team in a preseason poll.

Mason’s first opponent in this weekend’s tournament, Howard, will try to bounce back from a losing season with an overall record of 1-13-1. The Bison lost 21 members of last season’s squad but bolstered their roster with seven freshmen, including goalkeeper Jordan Austin as well as defensive players David Cokey and Samaila Samaila, who will work toward improving a defense which conceded 36 goals last season. On the other hand, midfielders Aaron Dass and Jordan Rice and forwards Rondell Alves and Emmanuel Iedare will bolster an attack which scored just eight goals in 15 games.

The American University Eagles, on the other hand, come to Fairfax with the confidence of a 2012 NCAA tournament participant and Patriot League Championship finalist. Coach Todd West, who enters his 14th season with the team, will have a good number of key players returning from last year’s winning season (11-6-2) in Patriot League’s Goalkeeper of the Year Billy Knutsen and Defensive Player of the Year Cristobal Soto.

The Eagles will enjoy the advantages of an experienced defense as Jordan Manley, Jake Weinreb, Conor Osborne and Matt Harlow all return. On the offensive end of the field, West can rely on seniors Chris Kuramoto and Patrick Mehlert, juniors Brett Habermahl and Stephen Hauschild, and sophomore Charlie Hunter to penetrate the opponents’ defense. Thirteen new faces feature on the team’s roster this year, with the coaching staff recruiting 10 freshmen and three transfer students, two sophomores and a junior.

Finally, we turn our attention to the George Washington Colonials, who finished their 2012/13 campaign with an overall record of 5-13-0. In their three exhibition games, GW is 1-1-1, facing Montgomery College, James Madison, and Duke University. The Colonials have 14 returning players from last season, seven of them regular starters.

One aspect of the game where the team needs improvement this season is the defense, which conceded an average of two goals per game. The team’s regular starting goalkeeper, sophomore Jean-Pierre van der Merwe, now has one year of experience and should do better, but if he does not perform well junior Luke Farrell should provide solid backup, however both of them need to improve their game for the team to succeed.

Without last year’s leading scorer Seth Rudolph, who graduated, the Colonials’ attack will most likely be led by Tyler Ranalli and Bailey Hinners, who combined for five goals last season. To strengthen the team’s defensive and attacking weaknesses, the coaching staff recruited nine freshmen: five defensive players, a midfielder, and three forwards.

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