The Canisius College men’s soccer team has climbed a number of those steps and is now looking to make the leap to the top in 2014.
“We’re making strides and getting better every year,” said fourth-year head coach Dermot McGrane. “Last year was a little bit of an anomaly because we had four scholarship players have to medical redshirt for the entire season, which is going to hurt any team. Even with those key losses, we were still almost .500 and improved our standing in the MAAC.”
The steps toward building a winning program started with McGrane joining the program in 2011. During his second season in charge, the two-time MAAC Coach of the Year guided the Griffs to one of their most successful seasons in school history when the program reached as high as second in the NSCAA North Atlantic poll and received votes in the national rankings for the first time in school history.
And while the 2013 season didn’t lead to the forward steps desired, the good news for the Griffs this season is the injuries that effected the team last year gave additional players much needed experience. The squad responded by playing its best soccer at the end of the season – finishing the campaign by handing the conference’s regular-season champion its only loss of the year. Mix the experience with what McGrane called his most talented team at Canisius and you have the recipe for success.
“We’re fortunate because my first freshmen class are now seniors and are going into their final year having played 60 collegiate games,” McGrane said. “Most seniors haven’t played that many games. We have a ton of experience and add the injuries last year, it allowed other players to get in and contribute when they might have not seen the field, which has now added to their development.
“We now have some really tough decisions to make every game day because we don’t have just 11 players that are talented enough and deserve to play. We have 20 guys that can start on any given day. The depth that we have on our team is tremendous. Our experience and depth are definitely two of our biggest strengths. The overall talent level on the team is way better than it has ever been before.”
According to McGrane, the key to taking that next step with the talent on the squad is to improve the team’s goals against record. The Griffs have succeeded in increasing their scoring offense to 1.52 goals per game during the last two seasons but the scoring defense has allowed 1.67 goals per game in his tenure. Make the needed improvement in that area and the wins will follow.
“A big focus for this year is not conceding as many goals,” McGrane said. “In my first year, we weren’t scoring goals and we were giving up too many, which is why our record was so poor. Second year, we focused on improving our scoring, which we did but we still gave up too many goals. Last year, same thing. As a team, I feel that we are going to create chances to score but we’ve got to cut down the goals against. So that is a huge focus of preseason camp and that will continue throughout the year.”
Expected to help lead the goals against improvement and wearing the captain armbands are goalkeeper Andrew Coughlin and defender Ryan Schroen. The duo is expected to lead by example on the field and off it in 2014.
“Our two captains exemplify the attitude we want to see in all of our players,” McGrane said. “They’re mature. They’re responsible. They give 100 percent commitment to this program every day. If we can get the rest of the team to model their behavior after these two players, we’re in great shape.”
The improvement with the goals against record all starts with the team’s last line of defense. A junior transfer from Syracuse University, Coughlin is expected to be the team’s top choice in net. Coughlin joined the Griffs in January last year, making an immediate impact during the team’s spring season and McGrane is looking for him to carry that over and lead a deep unit in 2014.
“Right now, the person to beat for the job is Andrew Coughlin,” McGrane said. “The nice thing is that we have four keepers and each is a different class and brings something different to the table. So, we have a lot of experience and we have some younger players that are able to build experience and develop.”
Reiner Dollak • Sr • 1gp, 3.00 gaa, .500 sv pct.
“Reiner has had a good preseason camp and will be nipping at Coughlin’s heels for playing time,” McGrane said. “He has improved a lot during his collegiate career and we know he can get the job done when called upon.”
Andrew Coughlin • Jr • Syracuse University
“Andrew joined the program in the spring and it was great for us to get the opportunity to work with him then,” McGrane said. “He is a very well rounded goalkeeper. He’s proficient in every area that you are looking for and excels in a lot of them. When he is on the field, you can see our defenders just have a sense of confidence with him behind them.”
John Hollinger • So • 4gp, 2.85 gaa, .500 sv pct.
“John is another goalie who is battling for playing time with Andrew,” McGrane said. “He gained some valuable experience as a freshmen last season and we’re looking for him to continue his development as a sophomore.”
Bryce Tramuta • Fr • Jeanette, Pa.
“It’s unusual for a freshman goalkeeper to come in and play immediately at the Division I level,” McGrane said. “Bryce has a lot of talent and will be using this year to gain experience and adjusting to the pace and the speed of the game.”
The good news for Coughlin and the team’s goalkeepers is the unit playing right in front of them boasts the team’s most experience. The Griffs return all four starters in Jon Cary, Alex De Carolis, A.C. LaFlore and Thomas Teupen in addition to Schroen, who was forced to miss the 2013 campaign with injury. Overall, the five players have combined to appear in 188 games with 163 starting assignments.
McGrane believe that the experience and depth in the unit is what is needed for the team to take the next step.
“Our back line is now very experienced,” McGrane said. “They’re all used to playing together and have great chemistry but we’ve now added in competition for places. In previous seasons, our back four has picked itself and if someone was injured or playing poorly, we didn’t have the depth to make a change. Every player in defense now knows that they need to keep their level of play up if they want to stay on the field.”
Jon Cary • Sr • 18gp, 3 points, 1g, 1a, 6 shots
“Jon is a big, strong player,” McGrane said. “He really likes to join the attack, which suits our system of play tremendously. He has great awareness and is very good going forward.”
A.C. LaFlore • Sr • 18gp, 2 shots
“A.C. LaFlore has become a very good leader for us in the back,” McGrane said. “He’s dominant in the air and does a great job of motivating everybody around him.”
Ryan Schroen • R-Jr • 17gp, 1 shot (2012)
“It is tremendous to get Ryan Schroen back into the mix after his injury last season,” McGrane said. He has great vision and great understanding of the game, while communicating really well. He is really the gel that holds the back four together.”
Alex De Carolis • Jr • 17gp, 7 points, 3g, 1a, 34 shots
“Alex De Carolis is similar to Jon Cary in that they’re both physical players on the outside who like to get forward,” McGrane said. “Alex has a great work rate and is very good joining the attack but also gets back defensively to not be caught out of position.”
Thomas Teupen • So • Münster, Germany • 18gp, 2 points, 1g, 18 shots
“Thomas Teupen had a big spring in the weight room and has put on a lot of strength,” McGrane said. “After a great first year on the team, we are expecting him to be even better this year.”
Jake Montante • Fr • Clarence, N.Y.
“Jake has shown great things during preseason,” McGrane said. “He’s very composed on the ball and we expect to him to factor in games this year.”
Eric Strauchen • Fr • Webster, N.Y.
“Eric can play left back or left midfield, which helps him fit into our system of play,” McGrane said. “He’s adjusting well to the Division I game and will also see time throughout the season in the back.”
Chris Cary • Fr • Syracuse, N.Y.
“Chris came into camp carrying an injury but we’re hoping to get him back playing by the middle of the season,” McGrane said. “Even when not playing, his background in the United States Marine Corps has been a very positive influence on our squad.”
Anchoring the middle of the pitch are a pair of returners in juniors Nicoló Baudo and Chris Berardi. The duo both saw significant action as sophomores and combined for four goals and three assists. Joining the pair in the central midfield are two highly-talented freshmen from Germany in Mo Kretschmer and Lucian Preis.
On the wings, upperclassmen Pat Conlon, Andrea Conte and Eric Ashley lead the charge in what is another deep unit for the Griffs.
“We lost two players from our midfield last season but we still return a lot of depth and experience,” McGrane said. “In the central midfield, we return Nico and Chris Berardi and also added a couple of talented players to the mix. Out wide is where we have a lot of experienced players who I think are ready to take the next step this season.”
Pat Conlon • Sr • 14gp, 2 points, 1g, 10 shots
“Pat had a really good spring season and seems to be carrying it into the fall segment,” McGrane said. “He’s one of the best strikers of the ball on the team but has always been too hesitant to shoot, trying to pass instead. He’s finally taking shots from everywhere and scoring some tremendous goals now. We hope to see it continue throughout the year.”
Andrea Conte • Sr • 15gp, 10 shots
“Andrea is small, quick and very skillful,” McGrane said. “He has the ability to take anyone 1-on-1 and when he does that, he looks very dangerous.”
Eric Ashley • Jr • 11gp, 4 shots
“Eric is entering his second season with the program and is really beginning to find his feet,” McGrane said. “He has the ability to score goals and I now feel that he is finally getting the confidence to match his ability. I expect to see him to get on the scoresheet a number of times this season.”
Nicoló Baudo • Jr • 17gp, 8 points, 3g, 2a, 27 shots
“Nico improves every time I watch him play,” McGrane said. “He has a passion for winning and a technical and tactical ability to achieve it.”
Chris Berardi • Jr • 18gp, 3 points, 1g, 1a, 19 shots
“Chris is one of the hardest working players I have ever coached,” McGrane said. “His growth from his freshman year to now is amazing and I can’t wait to see how well he does this year.”
Francesco Strangio • So • 9gp, 6 shots
“Francesco is an extremely talented player with very good vision and tremendous range of passes in his arsenal,” McGrane said. “When he’s playing well, he can pick another team apart. Therefore, we will need him playing well consistently this year for us to be at our best.”
Mo Kretschmer • Fr • Munich, Germany
“Mo is very composed on the ball and has a great understanding of the game,” McGrane said. “His time spent at Bayern Munich has obviously had a massive impact on his playing ability and style.”
Lucian Preis • Fr • Lörrach, Germany
“Lucian has a great combination of work-ethic and skill,” McGrane said. “He never stops running and makes great decisions with the ball at his feet.”
Evan Walsh • Fr • Kenmore, N.Y.
“Evan has good skill and a great work ethic,” McGrane said. “Having played holding midfielder for his club team, we’re trying to transition him into a new area of the midfield and expect great things from him once he gets a grip with the position.”
One of the top returners for the Griffs in 2014 is up front in senior Asani Samuels. A native of Jamaica, Samuels has been the team’s top threat during his career and became just the second Griff in the program’s history to garner NSCAA All-North Atlantic accolades twice during his career. McGrane now believes that a successful pairing during the spring season with redshirt freshman Mitch Cancilla can help vault Samuels and the offense forward.
“Asani is now very comfortable as a senior and he’ll demand a lot of attention from opposing defenses this season,” McGrane said. “We were really impressed with the combination of Asani and Mitch in the spring and are expecting that partnership to carry it into the fall.”
Derek Maier • Sr • 8gp, 1 point, 1a, 2 shots
“We expect Derek to see time playing up front rather than the midfield this year,” McGrane said. “Derek’s movement off the ball is great and he strikes the ball tremendously with either foot. I think we are going to see him get multiple goals this year.”
Asani Samuels • Sr • 18gp, 8 points, 3g, 2a, 46 shots
“Right now is the best I’ve ever seen Asani play,” McGrane said. “There is now a maturity in his game to match his athletic ability. He will be a handful for any defense that we face this year.”
Mitch Cancilla • RF
“After medically redshirting last year, Mitch gained a lot of experience in the spring and is a great partner for Asani,” McGrane said. “He holds the ball up well and has great vision and accuracy with his passing.”
Anthony Mandola • Fr • Jackson, N.J.
“Anthony is a big strong player with the ability to score goals,” McGrane said. “While not the tallest player on the field, he is one of the most dangerous in the air as he attacks the ball well and has tremendous heading technique.”
Mathew Santos • Fr • Oakville, Ontario
“Mat is a natural goal scorer,” McGrane said. “His movement off the ball is very good, and he will shoot from anywhere – with accuracy and power. I’m expecting Mat to be a big factor in our team’s success this year.”
The Griffs kick off the 2014 season on Friday, August 29 with a neutral-site contest against Butler in Columbus, Ohio. Canisius also plays UC Davis in Ohio before returning to Buffalo for a three-game homestand. The Griffs host Bucknell on Sept. 5 in their first game at the Demske Sports Complex, while hosting Bryant, Buffalo, St. Bonaventure and St. Francis (Pa.). Canisius also travels to face Robert Morris in non-conference action.
The quest for the 2014 MAAC Championship begins on Sept. 30, when the Griffs open on the road with 2103 MAAC Regular Season Champion Monmouth. Canisius is set to host conference foes Quinnipiac, Rider, Fairfield, Marist and Saint Peter’s, while playing at Iona, Siena, Manhattan and Niagara.
The top six teams during the regular season qualify for the 2014 MAAC Championship. The top two teams receive a bye into the semifinals with next four top-ranked teams squaring off for a berth in the four-team finals, held on the campus of the highest seed. The championship is slated for Nov. 16 with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.