Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa.
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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
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Imagine a place so dreaded that the mere mention of it elicits groans. Now imagine going there voluntarily.

That’s the odd situation facing the senior-laden Muhlenberg men’s soccer team, which opens the 2005 season with a tournament at Johns Hopkins this weekend.

The Mules have had their season end on the Hopkins turf in the Centennial
Ryan Smallwood
Smallwood has played in every Muhlenberg game the last three years, starting all but one. During that time, the Mules have allowed 58 goals in 63 games and notched 36 shutouts.
Conference playoffs three of the last four seasons, twice on penalty kicks and once on a fluke overtime goal. Last year, Muhlenberg lost a shootout to Hopkins in the first round of the CC playoffs to finish with a 9-7-3 record.

But that was the old Hopkins turf. The school replaced its AstroTurf with Sportexe and widened and flattened the field over the summer. When the Mules travel there to face Claremont (14-4-1 last year) and Kings Point (19-3), they hope to open a new chapter not only on their success in Baltimore, but also on a banner season.

“It’s never really been our favorite place to play,” said Ryan Smallwood, taking understatement to a new level. “But we are going to see some good competition. We just have to accept that as a benefit and make the most of it. At this point we’re confident enough that we can win there.”

That confidence comes from a veteran cast of eight seniors, all of whom played a role in Muhlenberg’s 2003 CC championship. After faltering at the start of last year, the Mules ended the season with a seven-game unbeaten streak and hope to take that momentum into the new season.

“For whatever reason, it took us a while finding a system that worked last year,” said Smallwood. “I think we can avoid that this year. Everyone knows their role from the outset.”

Remarkably, the eight seniors play different positions, so Muhlenberg could start all eight. However many start, the familiarity will be a big advantage. “It really enhances your ability to do a lot of things from playing together so long,” noted Smallwood. “Everyone can play off each other because they know their strengths and weaknesses so well.”

Smallwood, Adam Milberg, Joseph Benner and Jonathan Roman return as the back four. Center backs Milberg (second team) and Smallwood (honorable mention), the team co-captains, earned All-CC recognition last year.

The experienced back line will be helpful to the new goalie taking over following the graduation of a four-year starter. Sophomore Peter Bennett, who started one game last year, is competing with two freshmen for the job.

“This is the first time in a few years that we have a real competition in goal, and that will help,” remarked Smallwood. “The new guys have shown a lot of potential. I think whoever we go with we’ll have lots of size and athleticism back there.”

Senior All-CC selections Christopher King (six goals, three assists in 2004) and Jose Ramirez (three goals, one assist) will man center midfield again. Sophomores Karim Assous, who set a freshman record with eight assists, Jonathan Kliewer and Wesley Deininger (four goals apiece) will play the flanks.

Up front, the team returns two-time all-region selection James Henshaw, who tied for the CC lead with eight goals, and welcomes back Matt Pitetti after a year studying abroad.

The seniors will help ease in a large and talented freshman class that gives Muhlenberg the depth it lacked last year. With fresh memories of great times (2003) and rough times (2004) on the field at all times, the Mule seniors hope their final season will not end in the same place it began.

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Last updated August 31, 2005