ST. LOUIS, Mo.—The Fontbonne University men's soccer team gets its 2017 season started on September 2nd and they'll look for a quick start in the first month under its new head coach, Donnie Alberty.
Last year, the Griffins (8-11-1; 7-2 SLIAC) went 0-8-1 in September, but bounced back tremendously in October going 8-2 which propelled them to a No. 3 seed in the SLIAC Tournament.
The team went toe-to-toe with Westminster and after tying the game late in the second half it was off to overtime between the two teams at 1-1. However, the Blue Jays scored the game winner in the 98th minute, eliminating the Griffins from the tournament.
At the end of the season, Austin Willenbrock, Alex Smith and Greg Ferry earned All-Conference First Team honors. Andres Castro was named to the Second Team, while Ryan Dudley, Nick Wolf and Tony Pitaro earned Third Team hardware.
The team does lose the likes of Willenbrock and Smith who combined for six goals and eight assists. This year, however, Fontbonne, who was picked to finish fourth in the SLIAC Preseason Poll, will be led by Alberty this time around.
Thus far in Coach Alberty's short tenure at the helm he's liked what he's seen out of the team.
"I've been very impressed with the work rate and attitude of the guys thus far," said Alberty. "They've been eager, willing to train and put in the effort that it takes to be successful at this level. It would be very easy for us to make excuses with the late coaching change, but I really have just come in and did things the way I always have, and the guys have done exactly what's been asked of them. We're excited to get the season started and see our training play out in actual matches."
Coach Alberty will have at his disposal 23 players that returned from last year's team including seven starters. Midfielders Cory Schmidt (five goals) and Nick Wolf (three goals) will look to guide the offense toward more success in 2017.
In net, meanwhile, Pitaro returns after appearing in 18 games, owning a 2.08 goals against average and a .663 save percentage, to go along with his six victories.
"Our team has four players that've been part of the program since their freshman year, including, Schmidt, Alex Phillips, Pitaro and Jordan Alberici. We expect those four to provide the bulk of the leadership and have significant roles in what we do. We're also excited about Ferry (First Team All-Conference), Castro, Brendan Kopoff and Nick Nelson."
The Griffins will also welcome in a few fresh faces that look to make an impact right out of the gate in 2017. "New players to the program this year include Blake Smugala and Charlie Gibbs. We do have several players that had reserve roles in past seasons that are vying for more minutes. It should be an exciting year."
The team will get its 2017 campaign underway on Saturday when they'll pay a visit to Rockford University. Since 2013, Rockford has improved each year in the win category with last year being its best where they went 6-10-2.
RU will return its leading goal scorer Omar Rivas from last year where he finished with seven goals and one assist for 15 points. In net, they'll welcome back junior net minder Anthony Beck where he appeared in 16 games, making 80 saves for a .721 save percentage and earned a goals against average of 2.32.
Fans make sure to stay updated on fontbonnegriffins.com this weekend for a full recap and score.