Aug. 19, 2004
YOUTHFUL NORSE AIM FOR GLVC TOURNEY IN 2004
Basalyga begins second year as NKU head coach
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - At first glance, the goals seem modest and very attainable. One is to qualify for the 2004 Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament. Another is a win total that increases by two over last season.
As John Basalyga begins his second year as head coach of the mens soccer program at Northern Kentucky University, the talk isnt about GLVC championships or national rankings. The conversations focus on making progress with a youthful team, and building a program into a contender with an outstanding group of freshmen as the foundation.
A year ago, NKU posted a 4-9-3 overall record in Basalygas collegiate coaching debut. The Norse also finished 2-5-3 in the conference, tied for seventh place in the league standings and did not qualify for the GLVC Tournament.
If NKU can earn a berth in the GLVC Tournament this year, Basalyga will be pleased. He would also like to see the victory total increase by at least two.
That would be a major accomplishment, especially when you consider how strong the GLVC is and how young we will be this season, Basalyga said. We did not miss getting into the GLVC Tournament by much last season. If we score a goal or two more, we might have made it.
I always tell the players to win two more games than you did last year. If we can do that, we will have a chance to make the GLVC Tournament and be successful.
To do that, Basalyga will counting heavily on freshmen. In fact, as many as six freshmen could be in the starting lineup when NKU kicks off the season Aug. 28 against Saginaw Valley State University.
We are young and inexperienced this season with 14 freshmen, but I think the biggest difference between last year and this year is the fact we possess the ball better, Basalyga said. Technically, we are a better team this season. Last years team played with a lot of heart and desire, and that kept us in games.
While freshmen will have to play important roles this fall, several upperclassmen will provide leadership. Senior Nate Madden returns for his fourth season as the Norses starting goalie. A year ago, Madden posted a 1.35 goals against average and had 88 saves. Madden also collected two shutouts in 2003, and Basalyga expects his senior goalie to excel this season.
He has done a great job in his career at NKU, and Nate is playing very well in practice, Basalyga said. If he plays like he did last year, we will be in a lot of games this season and have a chance to win.
NKU also welcomes back junior defender David Lies, a two-year starter in the backfield. Junior midfielder Randy Walters and sophomore midfielder Tony Cullum also return.
David and Randy give us experience and leadership, and we will need that with all the newcomers, Basalyga said. We will also run Walters up top because he is so good on the ball, and he can dish some balls or get open to score. Cullum is a very good player, and we expect a lot from him.
Sophomore David Botos will start in the backfield, while freshmen Andy Bacon (Lakota East High School) and Dan Impellizzeri (Anderson High School) are both pushing for starting positions on defense. Basalyga said Bacon and Impellizzeri have been impressive during preseason practice.
Bacon is a strong athlete, and Impellizzeri is a very fast, quick outside back, Basalyga said.
Basalyga said midfielder/forward Tony Capurro, a graduate of Moeller High School in Cincinnati, is another freshman who will make an immediate impact. Jens Eliassen will also be counted on to provide offense this fall.
Capurro is a good playmaker with a great sense for the game, and he is all over the place, Basalyga said. He is very active and good with the ball, but he is not necessarily a goal scorer.
Chris Thompson scored two goals in his collegiate debut against the University of Findlay last season, but an injury forced the freshman forward to redshirt. His return to the NKU lineup is a key this fall.
Chris is a good scorer, and he is the guy other teams will have to shut down, Basalyga said. He can finish plays and will be an important offensive player for us.
Matt Flick, Kevin Holder, Nathan Rudolph and Brian Smith are returning letterwinners who will provide experience. Flick scored two goals and finished with six total points last season.
NKU will again face a difficult schedule, including a matchup against Findlay on Aug. 29. Findlay advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four last season, but NKU handed the Oilers a loss in the 2003 opener.
The schedule we will face is difficult, and our conference is really going to be tough, Basalyga said. We need to be more consistent this year, and play with confidence. Were not that far away from being a pretty good team. Were just young, and I need to be patient with them this year.