Aug. 21, 2003
NKU BEGINS NEW ERA IN 2003
Basalyga optimistic about youthful Norse
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - As the boys soccer head coach at Turpin High School the past 24 years, John Basalyga collected 325 victories and led the Spartans to three state championships in Ohio.
That success made Basalyga an ideal choice to become Northern Kentucky Universitys mens soccer coach when the position opened up last spring. Though he takes over a team that posted a 6-10-2 record a year ago and failed to qualify for the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament, Basalyga is excited about the opportunity and the challenge of guiding a college program.
This is a dream come true for me, Basalyga said. There are plenty of adjustments I have to make myself, but thats part of life. This opportunity is great, and it has definitely recharged my batteries.
NKU returns 11 letterwinners from last season, but the Norse lose four of their top five scorers. Replacing those players, including leading scorer Jeff Anderson (10 goals last season), is Basalygas major challenge in 2003.
Scoring is going to be our biggest problem, Basalyga said. Jeremy Robertson is really the only scorer we have returning, and he is going to have to take charge at forward. We have some young players with talent, but there is a big difference between high school and college soccer in the pace and speed of the game.
Until our younger kids adapt to the college game, it will probably be a revolving door at forward. We do need Robertson to be a leader up there and provide some scoring, but its hard for one player to do it all.
Robertson, a senior, scored four goals a year ago and totaled nine points. Freshmen such as Tony Cullum and Chris Thompson could earn an opportunity to provide offense, as could returning letterwinners Tony Segreti and Randy Walters.
Tony Cullum has the physical skills to be a good college player, and Chris Thompson has excellent speed, Basalyga said. Segreti did some good things last year and could help us, and Walters is getting into the flow of our system and can be a good player.
On defense, NKU returns experience and talent. Sophomore David Lies provided NKU with a solid presence on defense a year ago, and he also added three goals. Senior defender Kyle Winkler begins his fourth year as a starter for the Norse, and Basalyga said he expects Lies and Winkler to anchor the teams flat-four zone defense.
We are trying a different formation in the back, and I think Lies and Winkler will do a good job of anchoring the middle of the defense, Basalyga said.
NKU also returns senior defender Ben Otto, sophomore midfielder Kevin Holder and senior defender Bobby Pifer. Holder scored two goals and added three assists last season. Freshman Nadeem Al-Alami could also earn playing time this year.
In goal, junior Nate Madden returns after finishing 2002 with a 1.60 goals against average. Madden is beginning his third year with NKU, and Basalyga said he is counting on his experience.
Nate Madden is a very good goal keeper, and he has impressed me with his work habits, Basalyga said. He is a good athlete, and he is working hard to be a leader for this team.
Also back is sophomore Michael Braun, who owned a 1.86 GAA a year ago. Two newcomers - Steve Tabar and Tony Kelly - could also compete for playing time at goalie.
NKU again plays an ambitious schedule, including home matches against NCAA Division II powers Truman State University and Rockhurst (Mo.) University in September. The Norse also face GLVC powers Lewis University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis on the road later in the year.
NKU is picked seventh in the GLVC preseason poll, but Basalyga said he is looking forward to building a competitive program.
My philosophy is if you compete hard every day, it might not happen today or tomorrow, but that work will eventually pay dividends, Basalyga said. As our young players get stronger physically, they will get better. This is really an exciting time, and Im thrilled to be here coaching this group of players.