CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University men's soccer team kicks off its 2019 slate on the road in a non-conference matchup at Clark University on Friday, August 30.
The Spartans will play an 18-contest schedule including seven home dates at Dave Wolk Stadium. After the season-opener against the Cougars, the Spartans will play a pair of road games at Rensselaer and Union College on September 7 and 8. Castleton opens at home on September 11 at 4 p.m. in a matchup with SUNY Canton. After contests with Springfield and Norwich, the squad will dive heavy into its conference schedule with the opener coming in a home game with UMass Boston on September 21.
Head coach John O'Connor, now in his seventh season with the Spartans, added the two-time NAC Defensive Player of the Year and 2019 Castleton alumnus, Tom Kirk, as the graduate assistant coach. Emmit Ackerman also joins the coaching staff and his alma matter as the goalkeeper coach for his first season.
The Spartans feature a healthy mix of newcomers to the roster to compliment a fleet of 13 returners for the 2019 season. With competition heating up for playing time amongst rookies and returners, morale is high in camp as the leaders emphasize team comradery as one of the overarching goals of the season.
Castleton ended its 2018 season with a 1-0 overtime defeat to Western Connecticut State in the LEC quarterfinals and finished with a record of 9-9-1 (3-4-1 LEC). Six of the nine defeats on the season were one-goal contests and nine games in total were separated by one goal or less. The team has used the preseason to prepare for a familiar challenge in facing tight battles late in games. "Our training sessions have all been extremely high intensity and game-like so that when we get into those late games where there will be a lot of competition going on, we will be ready for any situation that happens," said senior co-captain Colby Gay. Gay will be relied upon for offensive output after scoring three goals with a pair of assists last season.
Senior Jack Kingdon projects to be a major contributor to the attack once again. He scored a career-high 10 goals and earned five assists in his junior season after garnering NAC Rookie of the Year, All-ECAC First Team, and All-NAC Second Team honors over his first two seasons with the Spartans. Impressed with the development of the team in the preseason, Kingdon has set expectations high for himself and the team in 2019. "We have a shot at the championship if we continue with the way we have been," Kingdon said.
Junior co-captain Jacob Godfrey netted a pair of goals in 2018 and expects an improved all-around squad in his farewell campaign. "We were a team that scored quote a few goals last year and on the opposite side we gave up a few but this year we want to limit those we gave up," Godfrey said. "We have been working a lot on the quality of our defensive play in order to limit the number of shots and chances that we give up."
Alex Fernald started nine games and logged nearly 810 minutes in goal for Castleton in 2018. He finished with a 3-5-1 record with three shutouts. The now-junior had a 2.00 goals-against average and .640 save percentage. Freshman Andres-Soto Burgos has impressed the coaching staff and teammates in training thus far and will look to compete for time in goal for the Spartans.
Sophomores Rida Kori, Diatourou Drame, and Noah Swainbank will anchor the core of returning players with plenty of experience as starters from a year ago. Juniors Tim Stewart, Zak Gillette, and Mason Thompson as well as sophomores Ben Stewart and Henok Palin return to the team looking to make significant contributions in 2019.
Castleton adds two transfers, two upper classmen, and eight freshmen eager to help the team. Tumba Felekini and Raynolds Awusi transfer in from separate Vermont schools and Spencer Butter and Dakota Garrow, both already Castleton student-athletes, join the roster for 2019. This year's freshmen class includes Soto-Burgos, Adam Seamans, Eric Maxham, Dan DeSalvatore, Chris Ciccarelli, Quentin Hopwood, Jacob Henderson, and Jay Kilmartin.