SAN LUIS OBISPO – Under the direction of interim head coach Phil Ruskin and highlighted by eight returning starters from a 2013 squad that scored a program-record 43 goals, the Cal Poly men's soccer program opens its preseason training camp and begins preparations for the upcoming year on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m.
"Our staff are extremely optimistic about the upcoming season and eager to begin work. We have a tremendous amount of talent returning to the team and are looking to build upon the successes the program has enjoyed over the past several seasons," Ruskin said. "We're equally excited to welcome 10 new players into the Cal Poly family who possess not only incredible talent on the field, but tremendous character away from the training ground. We're excited to begin preparations with this group as we look to mentor them as players, students and ambassadors for our program in the community."
Cal Poly, which brings back 11 total letterwinners from a 2013 squad that also finished ninth nationally with 2.05 goals scored per match, will enjoy 16 days of preparation before contesting a season-opening, two-match road trip at Davidson (Friday, Aug. 29) and North Carolina State (Sunday, Aug. 31). Cal Poly, which also visits 2013 NCAA Tournament quarterfinalist California for a Saturday, Aug. 23 exhibition, opens its 11-match home slate at Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Friday, Sept. 5 against Northern Illinois.
"We'll look to spend camp developing the players in our system of playing. The primary focuses will be on tactical and technical development, but we want the players to feel comfortable within our style of play," Ruskin said. "Our system will be brand new to some of the young players while others will have been familiar with it through their academy programs and club teams. The expectation is that the older players exhibit some early leadership and assist the staff with mentoring the younger players as we move forward. The players are eager to begin because we have a wonderful exhibition opponent in California."
The Mustangs, who bring back five of the program's top nine goalscorers from last season, enjoy their deepest returning pool of talent in midfield. Junior Matt LaGrassa earned All-Big West first team praise in 2013 after finishing second among Mustangs and eighth among conference players with six goals scored. Junior Chase Minter (top, right), whose seven assists in 2013 ranked as the third highest total in the Big West, also scored twice in 19 starts. Steve Palacios – the lone senior on Cal Poly's roster – added two assists last season.
Up top, sophomore John Chronopoulos returns in a forward capacity after scoring twice and totaling four assists in 11 starts last year.
Out wide, sophomore Justin Dhillon – a member of the 2013 Big West All-Freshman Team – finished seventh among Big West players last year with six assists while scoring twice.
In defense, Cal Poly brings back 107 combined games of experience in juniors Ruben Duran and Kody Wakasa and outside back Kip Colvey. Converted to defense in 2013, Duran started in 16 of his 18 appearances while Wakasa, who finished third among Mustangs with 1,762 minutes played last season, has started all but two of Cal Poly's 40 contests during the last two years. Colvey, meanwhile,.started 17 of 18 matches a season ago and chipped in with a goal and assist from the back. Also returning in defense is sophomore Brett Foreman, who made 11 appearances last fall and four starts in a reserve capacity.
In goal, Cal Poly features one of the Big West's more experienced players in junior Wade Hamilton, who played every minute of every match last season en route to finishing second in the conference with 76 saves. Hamilton, in 31 career appearances, enters his third year ranked fourth in Cal Poly history with a 1.40 goals against average. Also back in goal in freshman Eric Kam, who redshirted his first season on campus last fall.
With its eight-player incoming freshman class, Cal Poly strengthened all areas of positional play. Making their debut in Cal Poly's preseason camp on Wednesday are forward Adam Olsen (Pacific Palisades, Calif./Palisades Charter HS), winger Ramiro Molina (San Mateo, Calif./San Mateo HS), midfielder Oscar Jansson (Stockholm, Sweden/Darlington School-Georgia), defenders Trenton Matson (Walnut Creek, Calif./Las Lomas HS) and Nick Carroll (Los Gatos, Calif./Los Gatos HS), central defender David Levitsky (San Jose, Calif./Leland HS) and goalkeepers Simon Boehme (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands HS) and Andrew Klatt (Sonora, Calif./Sonora HS).