Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2003
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They say defense wins championships. The Muhlenberg men’s soccer team did not win any championships in 2002, but rode a solid defense to yet another successful season.
Evan Smallwood
Senior Evan Smallwood is a two-time All-Centennial Conference selection and an anchor on the Mule back line.
This year’s Mules will try to complement their defense with some more goals to become a championship team.

“We need to finish, ” head coach Sean Topping said. “We need someone to step up and be our scorer this year. ”

“If we can stick balls in the net, I don't think there are too many teams out there who can beat us,” team captain Justin Henning said.

In Topping’s first year at the helm, the Mules allowed goals in only eight of their 21 games en route to a 13-8 overall record and a 6-3 mark and share of third place in the Centennial Conference.

The Mules will open up the 2003 campaign Saturday night against Philadelphia Biblical at Varsity Field. The Crimson Eagles are coming off a great season that ended with a loss in the national championship game for Christian colleges.

Muhlenberg was picked second to Johns Hopkins in the CC preseason poll and did not receive any first-place votes, a fact that has not gone unnoticed in the Mule locker room.

“I think the boys are a little charged up that they didn’t get any first-place votes, ” Topping said.

“We know we're good enough to win the conference,” Henning said. “Now we've got to go out and show people we can play.”

The 2003 team will miss the contributions of four 2002 All-CC seniors, including two of its top three scorers, but returns seven players who started more than half the team’s games a season ago. Back are junior goalkeeper Chris Davis, who notched 10 shutouts in 2002, and Evan and Ryan Smallwood and Henning on defense.

In the midfield, senior Justin Marx and sophomore Jose Ramirez lead a talented group of returnees. Ramirez was one of only three Mules to play in every game last season. He scored three goals, including two game-winners.

Timothy Sparta is Muhlenberg’s active scoring leader, with 11 goals and 25 points, and is one of the candidates to become the big-time scorer the Mules need. Sparta started 13 games as a sophomore in 2002, scoring five goals. Forward James Henshaw scored four goals as a freshman. Junior Nick Richardson posted three goals last season as a forward, but will see more playing time on the right flank this fall.

“We have a strong squad, but we still have to prove ourselves, ” Topping said. “If the ball bounces our way, I think we have a really good chance of winning the Centennial championship this year. ”

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Last updated August 27, 2003