RPI men’s soccer begins another season of play this upcoming weekend, backed by seventh-year Head Coach Adam Clinton. The Red Hawks, who finished last season 13-6-1 overall and 6-1-0 in the Liberty League, are eager to get back on the field, make another attempt at a Liberty League title, and a return trip to the NCAA Championship.
Last season, Rensselaer finished second overall in the league and lost to St. Lawrence University in the Liberty League semi-finals. In addition, the Red Hawks, who finished the season ranked 25th in the nation, earned its first NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship tournament bid since 1998—and only their fifth in school history. Although the team lost 1-0 against the Stevens Institute of Technology Ducks, its loss has only made the squad eager for more post-season success. “One of the truths is that we didn’t win anything we expected to win, except the two tournaments at the beginning of the season,” explained Clinton. “Being in the NCAA tournament was a great experience, and has only made the team hungrier to return.”
Clinton, aided by Assistant Coach Nick Bochette, has the security of 20 returning players—including many of the teams top scorers—in addition to 11 new freshmen on the squad. “The returning seniors have had tremendous careers. They started out as freshmen and brought us to the level we’re at now,” said Clinton. “Unlike the current seniors, our freshman class has the option to ease into the season instead of being forced into the game, which should help acclimate them to the college level better.”
Expected to lead the team this year will be the experienced senior class, along with a few key juniors and sophomores. Senior midfielders Lincoln Field and Michael Long, who along with Travis Connell and Kevin Swift at back and Sean Fleury and Jabel Prom on the wing, are expected to be the biggest contributors, having been starting players all four years of their collegiate careers. For the juniors, Bryce Hutchinson up front and Ben Poser in the middle are predicted to have a large impact, as well as sophomores Brad Shelofsky and Andrew Tambasco. In net, junior Alex Penny is predicted to be a brick wall like he was last season, as Clinton tabbed him as “best in the league.” As far as the team’s offense is concerned, the majority of the top-scorers will be returning for their final season in a Red Hawks jersey.
Liberty League competition will be as tough as ever, with some of the strongest competition in Division-III soccer. For the Red Hawks, the season is taken one game at a time. “As a team, our number one goal is always to finish in the top four of the Liberty League to make the tournament. After that, it’s to take the league title, then the league tournament, and then to win the NCAA Championship,” explained Clinton. Despite coming off a strong season, no team is seen as a push-over. “St. Lawrence is always there, even when you think they’re not,” said Clinton. He went on to explain that Hobart College lost many good players due to graduation, but are still expected to field a strong team, and that Union College will always be a difficult rival. “The national ranking put us at a good level last year, and once you got that boiling, you have to keep it boiling, so it only makes us strive more to stay at the top of our league.”
RPI begins its season on the road, playing Worcester State College and John Jay College in the Union Classic this weekend, in Schenectady, N.Y. A short drive from campus, fans are encouraged to cheer on the team to victory as Rensselaer faces a difficult season opener. The Red Hawks then return home to Renwyck Field on September 15, playing host to the Oneonta State Red Dragons, before opening the Liberty League season in Clinton, N.Y. at Hamilton College.