Preview: Men's Soccer Is One Big Family

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Philadelphia is an hour to the south, and no one on the Muhlenberg men’s soccer team calls it home, but there’s plenty of brotherly love to go around on this year’s squad. With a record four sets of brothers, the Mules are, quite literally, one big family.

Jacob Joseph
One of 10 seniors on the team, Joseph has seven career assists. Both of his goals last year came in one-goal wins.
“It is a little rare; I’ve never been part of a team that has so many brothers on it,” said senior midfielder Jacob Joseph, whose brother Dan Joseph is a sophomore forward. “It’s like having a little piece of home right here at school. I think the other guys like it, too. Obviously the brothers have a special bond, but it spreads throughout the team also.”

In addition to the Josephs, the Mules, who open the season tomorrow against nationally ranked Rutgers-Camden, have the Katz brothers (senior Jeremy and junior Oliver), the Maehler brothers (junior Colin and freshman Patrick), and twin freshmen Andrew and Patrick Bell on the roster. Though the occasional disagreement surely crops up, when a quarter of the team has played together for life, communicating effectively on the field is that much easier.

“You have an unspoken connection on the field, between brothers and even between classes,” Jacob Joseph said.

Communication may not have been an issue last season, but the Mules wound up missing the Centennial Conference playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Still, last year’s 11-5 campaign was Muhlenberg’s 27th consecutive non-losing season. That won’t satisfy the Mules this time around. Nor, as it turns out, will just a return to the playoffs.

“We’re looking to win the CC title this year, and I think we’ve got a squad that can do it,” Joseph said with a confident smile.

Fraternal ties help in that regard, but so does experience, and the Mules have plenty of it. Start with the backfield, where senior co-captains Jonathan Schauer and Ryan Barlotta return to lead a defense that surrendered just 15 goals all season. Joining them will be senior Bucky Aronoff (14 career starts) and junior Bryan Attanasio (20), both fixtures of last year’s lineup. Junior Joe Adams will be in the mix as well.

Ryan Barlotta
Barlotta started the first 45 games of his career before suffering an injury midway through last season. The Mules have allowed only 33 goals in his 45 starts.
“We’ll be strong defensively,” Joseph said. “(Schauer) and (Barlotta) have been playing all four years, so they have a lot of experience.”

While junior Lance Dotzman (15 starts last year) is back to man the center midfield spot, the Mules will look to Joseph to make things happen on the flank. Joseph, who scored two goals last season, can start the offense from both sides of the field and has 42 career starts under his belt. Senior Brendan McIntyre, who Joseph said “is going to have to lead the midfield,” steps into a starting role at defensive center midfielder, where junior Travis Wantchekon (11 career starts) will join him.

The Katz brothers also figure to see plenty of time in the midfield, and senior Chris Royer can play on the flank or up top.

Between the pipes, a trio of goalies will battle for the starting spot, with sophomore Ellison Heil, junior Danny Pinto and senior Jas Chojnowski all having started at least three games last year.

The biggest unknown, though, is up front. With Cody Antonini – who scored 16 of the team’s 29 goals a year ago – graduated, Joseph is the squad’s active scoring leader with just three career goals. The Mules hope senior forward Jeff Reinhart and junior forward Joey Roberts develop into consistent options, but the squad doesn’t expect to have a go-to scorer at its disposal. That, according to Joseph, could be a surprising boon.

“We would always rely on getting the ball to Cody and rely on him to score the goals,” Joseph said. “This year we’ll be more of a team. We’ll move the ball a lot better, and hopefully have goals from other areas on the field. We’re thinking more threats means more goals.”

More goals, in turn, usually means more wins. And for a team that needed only one more of those to make the playoffs last season, the Mules hope that means they’ll be one big happy family when all is said and done.

“We have a good core of players and we’re all good teammates,” said Joseph. “We have a lot of camaraderie.”