From a regular season championship in 2009 to a program best 15 wins and a national ranking of 16th a season ago, the Iona College men's soccer team has accomplished plenty in the past few seasons under tenth year head coach Fernando Barboto. In 2012, the Gaels look to capture what has alluded them, a MAAC Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.
That is the goal for this season. With a roster that lost only two players from a year ago, the 2012 Gaels have a talented group of veterans and newcomers and look to capture the program's first conference championship.
The talent is evident when you consider the team returns seven All-MAAC Honorees and produced six 2011 National Soccer Coaches Association of America All- North Alantic Team honors, the most NSCAA selections in the country.
The 2011 season ended in a semifinal lost in double overtime loss to Manhattan, which has fueled the Gaels through the offseason.
"Our players have been tested since they arrived at Iona," says Barboto. "They each have a year or two of important experience under their belts. They returned to campus hungry, wanting more than they got last year."
Iona's crop of forwards will be led by the dynamic duo of junior Samuel Adjei and senior Ansger Otto. The pair will be counted on to replicate its scoring success of a year ago.
Ajdei appeared in all 20 games in 2011, scoring six goals and adding seven assists. This past offseason he competed with the Ghana U20 National Team, an experience that Barboto thinks will only benefit him in his third season.
"Sammy's experience with the U20 Team helped him continue to adjust to the physical play of the forward position, states Barboto. "It can only make him a better player, and add to an already strong skill set."
In his first season with the Gaels, Otto scored a team high seven goals, tying Adjei for the team lead with three game winners.
Sophomores Brais Garcia and Alexander Sibelait , a first year transfer from Savannah College of Art & Design, round out the Iona front line.
The Gaels return four starters in the midfield. The talented group will provide the playmaking in the middle that should help its teammates up front find plenty of scoring opportunities.
Junior Franklin Castellanos, an All-MAAC First Team Selection, appeared in 19 games for the Maroon & Gold in 2011, leading the Gaels in points with 20 on three goals and 14 assists. His 14 assists led the nation as did his 0.74 assists per game average.
Senior captain Alvaro Torrecilla, a 2011 All-MAAC Second Team selection, has appeared in 32 games for the Gaels, and enters his final season with eight career goals and four career assists.
Sophomore Ignacio Maganto, an All-MAAC Second Team selection a season ago, picked up 16 points in his rookie campaign, scoring six goals and notching four assists for the Gaels.
Junior Michael Hodgen started all 17 games he appeared in during his first season with the Gaels after transfering from Oregon State, finishing the season with one goal and four assists.
Juniors MJ Nestor and Giovanni Tacconelli and sophomores Giovanni Esposito and Ryan Del Monaco give the Gaels plenty of depth and experience along the position.
This season, Barboto added a trio of newcomers to the midfield in freshmen Cody Kiss, Dylan Cope and Saul Ortega.
"We wanted to find players who could add valuable depth to the squad," says Barboto. "Cody, Dylan and Saul are players that could fill that need for us."
Iona returns three of its four starters from last season's backline, but will have to fill two positions after one, senior Alexander Abdalla, was lost for the season during spring training. Gone is right back Adam Rohan, but senior captain Robbie Krohmer and junior Tommy Martin both return from a defensive unit that held opponents to just 19 goals a year ago.
Krohmer, a three-year starter for Iona, will anchor the defense after earning a First Team All-MAAC selection in 2011 while Martin started eighteen contests a season ago.
"Robbie is the anchor of our defense at center back, comments Barboto. "He is a team leader, and shows through example, how the game is played."
Junior Paul Traut and sophomore Charlie Butte will also see time this season on the back end. Traut appeared in 11 games for the Gaels in 2011, making four starts, while Butte is coming off a redshirt season.
Senior captain Douglas Stephens will also play a role on the back end this season. With his experience at midfield, and five career tallies, he has the ability to move up the field and create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
"Doug is a player that cares more about the game than anyone else out on the field," says Barboto.
Seniors Jordan Cunliffe and Brendan Ehrling and juniors Kester Guischard, Chris Relihan and Mike Stabile are also in the mix while Willya Mekolo, a sophomore transfer from Quinnipiac, will also provide depth to the Gaels' defense.
In goal, sophomore Borja Barbero quickly established himself as one of the conference's top netminders in his first season, earning a spot on the MAAC All-Rookie Team as well as a First Team Selection to the NSCAA All-Region Team.
Barbero started all 20 games for the Gaels in 2011, allowing 19 goals for an impressive goals against average of 0.91. He recorded 62 saves and four shutouts in his rookie year.
Senior Michael Jordan has appeared in six games for the Gaels during his career and will provide depth at the position along with freshmen Karlo Morrell and Julian Petrello.
The Gaels have eight teams on their 2012 regular-season schedule that qualified for last season's NCAA Tournament. Included in those squads are quarterfinals South Florida and Connecticut.
Iona opens up the season on Aug. 24 at Motamed Field against Adelphi before hosting UC Riverside on Aug. 26 in the home opener at Mazzella Field. The Gaels then travel to West Point to face Army at Clinton Field on Aug. 31.
The Gaels then head to Tampa, Fl to take part in the South Florida Tournament. Iona will play Florida Gulf Coast on Sept. 6 and South Florida on Sept. 8.
Iona will then travel to Evanston, IL to take part in the Lakeside Classic. Iona will play host Northwestern on Sept. 14 and Northern Illinois on Sept. 16.
Iona will welcome in Monmouth to Mazzella Field on Sept. 22 before travelling to West Virginia on Sept. 26.
The Gaels will begin MAAC play Oct. 6 with a home tilt versus Fairfield. Iona then wraps up non-conference play on Oct. 9 at Connecticut.
Iona's final eight regular-season contests all are against MAAC foes beginning Oct. 12 with a showdown against Manhattan at Gaelic Park. Iona will conclude its three game road trip at Saint Peter's on Oct. 14.
The Gaels will return home to play host to Loyola Maryland (Oct. 19) and Rider (Oct. 21) before road tilts at Canisius (Oct. 26) and Niagara (Oct. 28). Iona will conclude the regular season with home affairs against Siena (Nov. 2) and Marist (Nov. 4).
The 2012 MAAC Championship will eminate from the Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore, MD, beginning with the semifinals on Nov. 8. The Championship game will take place on Nov. 10.