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Aug. 11, 2010
The 2010 season for the Penn State men's soccer team, in several respects, will be a special one. It will mark the beginning of the Bob Warming era in Happy Valley, as the 32-year head coaching veteran and sixth winningest active coach in the NCAA takes over as leader of the Nittany Lions. It will commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the program, prompting a season-long celebration of the storied history and rich tradition of Penn State soccer. It will feature Penn State and venerable Jeffrey Field serving as hosts of the Big Ten Tournament for just the third time since joining the conference. However, it is what could take place on the field that could make 2010 not just a special season but also a momentous one.
Penn State returns 16 letterwinners and nine starters, including four All-Big Ten performers and team leaders in goals and assists, from a squad that won 12 games, advanced to the Big Ten Tournament title game, and earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Championship last season. The roster is comprised of an experienced core group of standouts, featuring six players with 30 or more career starts, and a dynamic collection of promising young future stars. Sound veteran leadership will be capably provided by seniors Andres Casais and Drew Cost, who will serve as team captains for the 2010 season.
"It is an honor to be the coach of a program that is celebrating 100 years of great soccer coaches, great soccer players, and great soccer fans," said Warming. "This centennial year is unique and special to college soccer and we will be doing everything we can to make it memorable for the current team and our proud alums. The challenge of the Big Ten this year will be great. Of the seven teams, five are preseason nationally ranked. The other two should be great opponents as well, as Michigan signed the National High School Player of the Year and Wisconsin hired a new coach who has a history of great success. We will have to be well prepared and completely focused every match in the Big Ten this year to be successful and to have the kind of season we all want to have."
Gone to Major League Soccer's FC Dallas is 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Jason Yeisley but returning to headline the Penn State attack in 2010 is the team's leading scorer from a year ago, junior Corey Hertzog. A Second Team All-Big Ten selection in 2009, Hertzog emerged as one of the conference's most dangerous offensive threats, topping Penn State and tying for the Big Ten lead with 28 points (11 goals, 6 assists). Unpredictable on the attack, he used his uncommon balls skills and flair for the dramatic to notch a conference-best six game-winning goals. In a win over Michigan State at the Big Ten Tournament, Hertzog exploded to score his first career hat trick en route to earning tournament offensive MVP honors.
Returning players senior Treavor Gelsinger, Penn State's leading scorer in 2008, and Rafa Faria, a sophomore who saw action in six games last season and netted one goal, will look to contribute on the offensive end. Freshmen Jordan Tyler, a Gatorade Player of the Year candidate and top 50 national recruit, and speedy international import Ehjay Henry could also be factors.
All-Big Ten selections Matheus Braga and Drew Cost along with junior Mackenzie Arment will key the transition game for Penn State, providing both offensive production and defensive contributions from their midfield spots.
Braga burst onto the collegiate soccer scene in 2009, notching seven goals and a team-best seven assists to garner unanimous all-conference recognition. His nifty moves and creativity on the ball not only create scoring chances for himself but also his teammates. Cost is a hard-working, high-character, and multi-talented performer who is poised for a breakout offensive season after totaling a career high eight points in 2009. Arment, a quick and agile player who started 12 games a year ago on the wing, will strive to expand his role in 2010.
Adding a defensive element to the midfield will be junior Matt Smallwood and redshirt junior Marco Ciarla. Smallwood, a hard-nosed, no-quit competitor, saw action in 19 games in 2009, starting seven while Ciarla, despite his defensive tendencies, showed off his offensive skills in the spring season, scoring two goals. Sophomores John Gallagher and Daniel Parr, a transfer from Rutgers and brother of senior Andy Parr, and versatile freshman Jordan Tyler could also push for playing time.
With all four starters and two regular contributors returning from the 2009 squad, the Penn State defense will be one of the definitive strengths of the team in 2010 in terms of both talent and depth. Senior Andres Casais, a First Team All-Big Ten selection last season and career 48-game starter, anchors the unit with his heady play and fearless approach. The Caracas, Venezuela native, displayed his trademark toughness and tough-mindedness, bouncing back from a fractured cheekbone suffered in 2008 to lead Penn State in minutes played a year ago.
Sophomore Brian Forgue is a talented and smart player and, after a productive freshman year and standout spring season, will aim to make greater contributions in 2010.
Redshirt junior Warren Gross appears to be entrenched as the first team goalkeeper entering the 2010 season after starting all 22 games in net a year ago. The former U-18 U.S. National Team member recorded a Big Ten-best nine shutouts in 2009, tying for the third-most in a single season in Penn State history, and ranked third in the conference with a 0.83 goals against average.
Bids for playing time or challenges to Gross' starting spot will come from three players - redshirt freshmen Brendan Birmingham and Micah Collins and true freshman Jordan Tyrna. Birmingham was the surprise star of the 2010 spring season, helping Penn State post a perfect 5-0 record by recording five shutouts while playing every minute in goal. Collins is a transfer from Villanova with good size (6-2, 200) while Tyrna is a recruit from the Houston, Texas area.
The 2010 schedule features nine home games and match-ups with six teams that qualified for the NCAA Championship in 2009. The schedule also includes five non-conference contests versus teams from Pennsylvania, road trips to five different states, and four opponents never faced before in program history.
The annual Penn State Classic brings regional foe and defending Patriot League champion Bucknell (9/10) and America East member Binghamton (9/12) to Happy Valley and will be one of the many highlights of the 2010 home schedule. Other key games at Jeffrey Field include Warming's Big Ten baptism of fire, the Sept. 24 conference opener versus rival Indiana, a match-up with 2009 NCAA Championship runner up and preseason No. 1-ranked Akron (10/13), and an inaugural contest with one of the NCAA's top scoring teams in 2009, UMBC (10/20). The Nittany Lions' 2009 Big Ten Tournament title game rematch with Ohio State on Oct. 23 will be special, as the 100-year anniversary of Penn State soccer will be commemorated with a ceremony and other festivities. It will also mark the Lions' lone home appearance on the Big Ten Network.
Penn State's away schedule begins with its annual early-season visit to Columbus for Ohio State's Wolstein Classic, which will include games versus Buffalo (9/3) and the College of Charleston (9/5). The Nittany Lions' longest road trip of the year sends them to Colorado for match-ups with Air Force (9/17) and Denver (9/19). Big Ten matches at Michigan (10/3) and at Northwestern (10/17) in October will provide stern tests and a three-game road swing to end the season, featuring contests against Penn (10/27), Lafayette (11/2), and Wisconsin (11/6), could play a significant role in deciding Penn State's postseason fortunes.
Penn State will welcome the conference field to University Park from November 11-14 for the 2010 Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions won the second of their three Big Ten championships when they lasted hosted the annual postseason event in 2002.