The Red Hawks look to build on another impressive season in which they won the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s regular season and championship titles. Despite an unexpected first round loss to Stevens College in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the team is as hungry as ever. In an effort to gain some insight on what the upcoming season has to offer, I exchanged emails with Head Coach Todd Tumelty.
Q: After being named #1 in the NJAC preseason poll, does that make you and the team feel pressured or is it a confidence boost?
A: “Neither; it’s not important to us. The poll comes out before a ball is even kicked, so if anything, the coaches who vote are forming their opinion based on last season. It’s nice to be honored for the season we had last year, but this season’s team is completely different. We ignore the NJAC polls and the national polls.”
Q: Could you briefly describe your core veterans, who will have to step up and fill in for the graduated seniors of last season?
A: “We return [with] two of our strongest attacking players, Lucas Terci and Damien Bziukiewicz. Lucas was the Forward of the Year in our Conference and Damian was the Midfielder of the Year, so obviously they’re our key guys. In the back, John Starner is a Junior captain and he’s one of our leaders along the backline. We lost some good seniors last year and it’s going to be a team effort to replace their contributions.”
Q: Briefly describe the incoming freshmen and rising sophomores as players and what they can offer either now or down the road.
A: “As a staff, one of the things we’re most excited about is how this group of freshmen is going to grow together. They are excellent players and there’s a good balance of attackers, defenders, two-way players and goalkeepers. Most importantly though, they are all good students and solid character guys; we expect this group to stay together and be the foundation of the program for the next four years. Not only is the future really bright for them, but I’d expect to see two or three or even more of them starting on opening day as well… it’s quite a class. Our key rising sophomore is Kyle Goodwin; he made a great impact as a freshman and we expect him to make an even bigger jump this year.”
Q: For those that aren’t soccer nerds, explain how important defender Michael Czyrnek is?
A: “Incredibly important, but also, unfortunately, injured. He tore his ACL training over the summer and won’t be back on the field for us until the 2016 season. Michael is still one of our captains, though, and will do a great job this season helping provide some leadership from the bench and being a resource for the younger players. There is no one player that can replace Mike, but as a team ,we’re confident in the group we have in the back.”
Q: Where does Lucas Terci rank on the list of players you have ever coached?
A: “We’ll see after this season; for sure he’s one of the most talented and for sure he’s had an enormously impressive first three seasons for us. Nobody can argue with what he’s done and the numbers he’s put up. Right now he and I are both focused on trying to win championships this season. Once he’s finished his career at MSU, that will be the right time for looking back and reflecting and comparing him to some of the great players who have come through the program before.”
Q: What are your goals for the season (playing style, NJAC, NCAA tournament)?
A: “Our most important goals, as always, are off the field. We want our guys to represent the University well at all times. We want to give back to the community through our charity efforts, be involved positively in the campus community as well and we want to make sure all our players continue to excel in the classroom; those things always comes first for us.
In terms of strictly soccer, though, we always aim high. We want to win the Regular Season and the Conference Championship in the New Jersey Athletic Conference again. We’ve qualified for nine straight NCAA tournaments and we want to make it 10. We want to go to the NCAA Final Four again and we want to win the program’s first National Championship.”
The Red Hawks opened up the season in thrilling fashion with a last-second win over Manhattanville College on Sept. 1 at MSU Soccer Park.