Aug. 17, 2001

NKU SEEKS IMPROVEMENT IN 2001

Norse return seven starters from 7-12 team

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - A year ago, it would have been difficult to blame John Toebben if he felt more like a passenger on a roller coaster than a soccer coach.

Toebben watched his Norse begin the 2000 season with seven consecutive losses, three of those setbacks coming against nationally ranked teams. NKU, however, rebounded to win its next five matches, and the Norse suddenly found themselves 5-7 and challenging for first place in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

“Early in the season, we did not get any breaks and we were up against very good competition,” Toebben said. “We started playing better and getting a break or two after the 0-7 start, and we won five straight games.”

Then, the roller coaster ride started once again for Toebben’s Norse.

NKU started another streak, this time three consecutive losses to fall out of contention for the No. 1 seed in the GLVC Tournament. The Norse won their next two matches to clinch a spot in the GLVC Tournament, and closed the season with consecutive losses against Transylvania and Wisconsin-Parkside (in the first round of the GLVC Tournament).

NKU finished with a 7-12 overall record that included a 6-5 mark in the GLVC. It also left Toebben and his Norse eager to begin the 2001 season.

“I know the players are in better condition, and they have something to prove this season,” Toebben said. “I think we match up well physically with anyone on our schedule. Now we have to be mentally tough to pull out close games.”

NKU returns seven starters, including four of the top five scorers. The Norse also add an impressive recruiting class that could provide immediate help.

“Our returning players are going to be pushed by the newcomers,” Toebben said. “We brought in some very good recruits, and I expect them to provide us with more competition for starting positions.”

Junior forward Jeff Anderson led NKU in scoring a year ago. Anderson finished with nine goals and six assists. Junior fullback Tony Becker also returns after scoring four goals last season. Senior forward Aaron Pitzer will also challenge for significant playing time.

“Jeff Anderson is very quick and a good scorer,” Toebben said. “We are moving Tony Becker to fullback, and he also is a quick player.”

Newcomers Joaquin Palomeque, Eric Kleiman and Daniel Grundei will also help this year. Palomeque, a forward, was a second team junior college All-American at Cincinnati State two years ago who sat out as a redshirt last season. Kleiman was one of the area’s top prep players last year at St. Henry High School and scored 21 goals as a senior.

“Joaquin and Daniel Grundei are both mature players who can give us leadership, and Kleiman is a great scorer,” Toebben said.

Senior Kevin Crone, one of the GLVC’s best defensive players, will move from sweeper to the midfield this season. Crone had six goals a year ago.

“We’re moving Kevin to the midfield to try and get more offense this season,” Toebben said. “He has a very strong leg and we need to get Kevin more involved in the offense. Scoring was a problem for us last year, and Kevin will help our offense. He can shoot from way out on the field.”

Junior Greg Colston will take Crone's sweeper position. Returning lettermen Nathan Gindele, Kevin Morath, Stephen Hahn, Mike Poole, Yacoub Abdul, Kyle Winkler, Justin Kelly, Jeremy Robertson and Bobby Pifer add experience. Newcomers David Gajus, Nathan Klette and Jeffrey Sucher will also challenge for playing time.

The goalie will be either freshman Nate Madden or freshman Chris Billiter.

NKU opens the season Aug. 25 with a match against nationally ranked Truman State University at the Town & Country Sports Complex in Wilder, Ky. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 21 in the NCAA Division II preseason poll.

CLICK HERE FOR 2001 SCHEDULE