Aug. 24, 2011
DALLAS (SMU) - Following a year in which the SMU men's soccer team posted a 16-2-2 record, advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight and won the Conference USA regular season title, the No. 5 Mustangs are eager to start the 2011 season.
"We're incredibly excited about this season," said head coach Tim McClements. "We had great success last year making it to the Elite Eight. Now that our guys have been there, they want to improve on last season. We lost to a good North Carolina team that made it to the final four, so we're not that far off."
SMU's quest for the College Cup and a national title will be tested early and often this season as nine of the 18 games the team will play are against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams, including five in the first six matches.
The Ponies will be led on the field by captain Adam Still as he anchors the SMU defense along with seniors Ian Kalis and Diogo de Almeida. The trio was part of a squad was able to contain some of the top offenses in the nation last year. The big question for the team is who will start in goal. During the preseason, sophomore Jaime Ibarra and freshman Devin Cook split time in net.
"We lost a great keeper in Craig Hill last season," said McClements. "But I know that any of our keepers can step in and do what it takes to win. They made great plays in our exhibition games and have worked hard and improved every day at training."
One spot where the Mustangs shouldn't have any problems is on the offensive side of the ball. SMU is returning five of its top six scorers from a year ago, including Second Team All-America selection Arthur Ivo (10 goals, 5 assists) and C-USA Freshman of the Year Juan Castillo (10g, 4a). Sophomores Robbie Derschang (5g, 5 a), Zach Barnes (5 g) and T.J. Nelson (2g, 2a) return to the midfield where they are sure to push the offensive attack with creative footwork, crosses and through passes to the forwards.
The Mustangs are a young team once again in 2011, but McClements knows the deep playoff run last season helped the team mature and gave the players valuable experience playing top-25 teams week in and week out.
"In our last preseason game, we started three sophomores and three freshmen," McClements said. "We're still very young. But most our players have been in the situation of one-and-done, lose and you go home. After last season, they know what that playoff atmosphere is like, and that should help us with our tough schedule this season."
Joining the current players is another impressive recruiting class which includes two Gatorade Players of the Year; Aaron Simmons (Texas) and Will Smith (Oklahoma). The Mustangs have now pulled five Gatorade Players of the Year over the past two seasons.
SMU kicks off the 2011 season Saturday, Aug. 27, as the Mustangs host No. 13 William & Mary in a rematch of the NCAA Round of 16 game from a year ago. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Westcott Field.
Season tickets are on sale now for $24. Individual game tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under. Blocks of 50 or more tickets are $1 apiece. Tickets can be purchased online at SMUMustangs.com or by calling 214-SMU-GAME (214-768-4263).