Miller and Wilee lead youthful men’s soccer squad

With thirteen freshmen on the roster, one might call this a rebuilding year for the GW men’s soccer team. But senior co-captain Matt Miller said there is no doubt the rookies will quickly find their places on the field.

“I am confident that these freshmen can step up and fill in for anyone who graduated,” said Miller, a midfielder.

One of the six graduates was Arnar Johannsson, the Colonials’ most explosive offensive threat last season. The senior netted 12 goals and five assists for 29 total points in 2003.

According to head coach George Lidster, this fall will be the first time in five years the team does not have a go-to player who can consistently produce on the offensive side of the ball. The coach added that this might not be a problem, as long as his midfielders back up the front line and contribute more goals than they have in the past.

“We’re not dependent on one person, so that can be good,” he said. “But in a tight match, it might be bad. I am confident that everyone will chip in.”

Miller agreed that the lack of a star could be a plus if a variety of players make an impact, which will make everyone work together.

“We depended on (Johannsson) too much,” he said. “With him gone, it will help us reorganize as a team. This is not an individual game, and as long as we play as a team, we can win.”

The Colonials are trying to use this all-around philosophy to make up for last year’s disappointing regular season. With a losing record (7-11-2), they barely made it into the Atlantic 10 Tournament, losing to Richmond in the first round.

“Last year we could have done better,” said Trent Wilee, fifth-year senior co-captain. “We’ve ironed out the kinks that held us back.”

Sophomore Jeremiah Burke should be a key contributor on offense. The shifty forward was named to the A-10 All Rookie Team last fall.

To help give Burke some help, Lidster has moved some of his players to other positions, such as junior Andre Chapman (a former defender), to give them the opportunity to contribute more on the offensive end.

In the preseason, the practices have been centered on adjusting to the new system and scrimmaging. This, Lidster said, gives the rookies a chance to adapt to the higher level of soccer and to try to earn starting spots.

Wilee said he and his fellow returning players have been doing their best to push the underclassmen.

“Now, it’s about getting them used to playing Division I,” he said. “We want them to be able to come in for us. We aren’t light on them, but it’s a matter of easing them through.”

Miller said he is happy with the progress they have made so far.

“I am so impressed with them,” he said. “We are 20 steps ahead of where we were at this point last year. We can only get better from here.”

Freshman defender Matt Davis has already made his mark, as the A-10 named him to the Preseason All-Rookie Team. Freshman forwards Wade Gerhardt and Thomas Stuber are expected to each provide some offensive punch, along with sophomore transfer Arturo Pedroso, another forward.

Wilee, the team’s only senior, said he is grateful to have one last chance to have success on the soccer field.

“I hope I can play solid and stay in this role that I’ve been given,” he said. “We need to stay consistent, and hopefully it will get us another ring.”

Lidster, on the other hand, made a point to say his team needs to stay virtually injury-free to be successful, because he expects many games this fall to be decided by one or two goals.

“If we drop, we’re not good enough to win,” he said. “Every team we play this year can beat us, but we can beat every team we play.”

The Colonials will open their season Saturday in the D.C. College Cup at American University against Georgetown at noon. They will play in the second game of the tournament at Howard on Monday at the same time.

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