Date Posted:09/02/2003,  10:30AM

2003 Men's Soccer Preview

There is a sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding the Bowdoin College men's soccer team this fall. With fiery head coach Brian Ainscough at the helm, it is never dull; but with several key members returning from a team that won the NESCAC Regular Season crown in 2002, the Polar Bears are looking to capture their first NESCAC Tournament Championship and return to the NCAA's for the first time since 1998.

The Polar Bears are ranked 24th in the National Soccer Coaches' Association preseason poll and are coming off a 10-3-2 mark last season. Although the Polar Bears had home-field advantage in the NESCAC playoffs, they fell in a tense match to Amherst in the semifinals, and were forced to watch Williams and Amherst battle for the title on their home turf.

"We were obviously disappointed to not take advantage of home advantage in the NESCAC semifinals," says Ainscough. "We're looking to go a step further this season."

The Polar Bears offense in 2002 was no secret: Desilets to Russo, Russo to Desilets. The two stellar forwards racked up 19 goals last season, equaling the output of Bowdoin's opponents. Included in sophomore Andrew Russo's (Weymouth, Mass.) 12 goals were five game-winners and junior Bobby Desilets (Mapleville, R.I.)- pictured at left- accounted for a team-high seven assists. Six-foot-two Tom Bresnehan (Sherborn, Mass.) pitched in four goals, while senior co-captain Ethan Roth (West Orange, N.J.) contributed two goals and two assists. Sophomore Hosheus Isaac (Roxbury, Mass.) will fight for playing time and first-year Simon Parsons (Hollis, N.H.) will look to make an immediate impact at the forward position.

"Up front we should be strong," says the head coach. "Russo, Desilets and Bresnehan played very well last season and with the depth of Isaac and the addition of Parsons we have some good talent."

Midfield will be a numbers game for Bowdoin this season. But the choices will be strong as Roth is joined by sophomores Ethan Galloway (Mercer Island, Wash.), J.D. Dungan (Falmouth, Maine), Brendan Fisher (Needham, Mass.) and junior Bucky Jencks (Honolulu, Hawaii). Perhaps the most welcome return will be junior Tucker Hodgkins (Yarmouth, Maine), who will bring his explosive ability back to the field after missing last season with a leg injury. Toss in a talented group of first-years, including Anthony Regis (Topsfield, Mass.), Kevin Mullins (Duxbury, Mass.) and Joseph Adu (Columbus, Ohio) and Ainscough has a legion of athletes from which to choose.

Defensively, the Polar Bears have three returning starters as captain Danny Sullivan (Portsmouth, N.H.)- pictured at right- junior Jacques Guana (San Antonio, Texas) and sophomores Mike Crowley (Wellesley, Mass.) and Willy Waters (Andover, Mass.) come back after a strong campaign. First-year John Hollis (Worcester, Mass.) will fight for playing time in back.

"I think we should be the strongest in back," says Ainscough. "With our four starters coming back and Hollis giving us some more cover we should be just fine."

In goal, the Polar Bears return senior Travis Derr (Berlin, Conn.) who has seen almost every minute of action in net since becoming the starter as a first-year. Challenging Derr for time in net will be Tom Davis (San Francisco, Calif.) and Lucas Bare (Los Alamos, N.M.). Another possibility in the scenario will be the play of talented first-year Dan Hackett (Portland, Maine).

Bowdoin will open their season on September 7 vs. non-conference foe Wheaton. Their challenging NESCAC slate includes home contests against Williams, Wesleyan and Colby and away games at Amherst, Middlebury and Tufts.

"We are coming off a great season that saw us make some great strides," according to Ainscough. "The key is to take what we learned last year and continue to work every single game on getting better."