Men’s Soccer: Senior leadership to carry momentum in ’07

Men’s Soccer: Senior leadership to carry momentum in ’07

By Chris Estrada

Last year marked a turning point in the Northeastern men’s soccer program. The Huskies notched their first post-season appearance since 2003 on the strength of a six-game winning streak to end the regular season. While their stay in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) playoffs was brief (a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to George Mason), 2006 served as the first mark of a steady improvement under third-year head coach Brian Ainscough.

The boys on the pitch will rely on a group of talented forwards to keep their momentum on an upward slope. Of them are the lone three seniors who will shepherd the team, including forward Greg Kilkenny, who won All-CAA second team honors last year behind a 17-point junior campaign (six goals, five assists). Logic denotes that Kilkenny will be a major focal point on offense, but his fellow seniors, forward Ahmed Talaat (5 goals, two assists in 2006) and defenseman Padraig Tangney (19 starts as last year’s co-captain), are no slouches either.

Senior leadership will be the face of a team with a strong underclassman contingent behind them, led by sophomore midfielder Alexander Volk and sophomore defender Lars Okland. The European imports (Volk is from Germany, Okland is from Norway) played key roles in the Huskies’ late-season surge that boosted them into the playoffs.

Volk tied Kilkenny for the 2006 team lead in goals (6), assists (5) and points (17) and led all CAA rookies in scoring. Meanwhile, Okland pulled off a move from midfield to defense that proved successful for coach Ainscough. After allowing 18 goals in a winless September, Northeastern allowed just seven markers and went 6-2-1 in October following Okland’s jump to defense.

In addition to other young standouts like sophomore defender Brendan Ennis, who garnered the team’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, the Huskies have recruited a group that in May Ainscough said was “very deep.”

Three midfielders, three defensemen and two forwards will look to bolster the Huskies in 2007. Out of the eight recruits, three are locals. Watertown’s Adrian Kawuba notched 2006 Boston Globe All-Scholastic honors as a midfielder/striker for Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington, while Needham High School teammates Jeremy Klein and Nick Lueders enter Northeastern after winning top accolades in the Bay State League’s Carey Division during their high school careers.

Midfielder Santiago Bedoya (Weston, Fla.) won 2006 All-Broward first-team honors from the Miami Herald after a senior season that saw him notch eight goals and 10 assists. Alec McLean (Silver Spring, Md.) pushed Montgomery Blair High School to the Maryland state semi-finals last year as team captain. Another top prospect is Matt Pentkowski (Clinton Park, N.Y.), who powered Wilbraham and Monson Academy to the 2006 New England Prep Class B title. Oliver Nowalski (San Juan, Costa Rica) and Matt Sanford (Princeton, N.J.) round out the recruits.

Also new to the Huskies is assistant coach James Greenslit. A three-time Division III All-American midfielder at Wheaton College and a current player for the United Soccer League’s New Hampshire Phantoms, Greenslit will emphasize defense in his new capacity – not surprisingly considering that he anchored a Wheaton defense that chalked up 10 shutouts his senior season in 2006.

While Greenslit admits he is still in the learning stages of his job, he said the process so far has been rewarding and credits Ainscough and the staff for teaching him a lot already.

“It’s been great,” he said. “Brian knows so much and he’s taught me so much and it hasn’t even been a full season yet. I’m looking forward to where we actually deal with soccer on the field. I hope to learn a lot there and get that experience as a coach.”

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