For the Quinnipiac men’s soccer program, it’s just a matter of rebuilding.
The Bobcats lost a few key players from last season, but have enough youth and depth to make up for it.
The ‘Cats, who defeated in-state foe Hartford 2-0 on Sept. 10, look to bounce back from an 8-9-2 season.
Former QU soccer star Eric Da Costa, a 2001 alumnus, will lead a youthful team that hopes to reach the NEC playoffs for the second straight season.
Last season, a loss to Farleigh Dickinson in the first round marked the end of the road for the Bobcats.
De Costa, formerly an assistant for both the men’s and women’s teams, was previously the head coach at Teikyo Post University in Waterbury, De Costa, and he also coached at New Milford High.
He replaces Sam Carrington, who held the head coaching position for four seasons before departing last spring.
The toughest blow during the off-season was the loss of brothers Conor and Cory Shilcock-Elliott. Connor established himself as one of the nation’s top goalies while Cory was one of the program’s best defenders in recent memory.
The Shilcock-Elliott brothers, of Rosemont, Pa., opted not to return to Quinnipiac for undisclosed reasons.
The key returner for the ‘Cats is Lassana Camara, a native of Mali, Africa. A first team All-NEC selection, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound center/midfielder was named the team’s most valuable player last season. Camara, who excels at distributing the ball, will be a holding force for the ‘Cats in the midfield his senior season.
The team also has a lightning quick center/midfielder in Nicolae Popescu, who transferred in from Ulster County Community College. Popescu, who starred at the prestigious Bollettieri Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla., picked up a starting spot right away.
Forwards Jadir Barbosa and Francis Mavula are both scoring threats who will take on a bulk of the offense. Last year, Barbosa registered seven goals and an assist to lead the team. Mavula, a junior, paced the ‘Cats with four goals and three assists last season and also led the team in scoring during his freshman year. Junior Alex Achigbu is an aggressive and athletic forward who provides another scoring option.
Starting in goal is senior Ken Lewis, who posted an impressive .875 save percentage as a backup last season. Lewis, a product of nearby Lyman Hall in Wallingford, allowed 0.77 goals per game last season. He will have some help from junior keeper Paul Fleck.
As a team leader with plenty of experience, Lewis will just have to be Lewis, and not try to be Shilcock-Elliott, who was among the country’s top ten leaders in saves the past few seasons.
On defense, sophomore Ben Forst is a standout at center back and 6-foot-6 inch graduate student Aldin Beslagic is an extremely skilled veteran.
The sophomore tandem of Chris Sinclair and Hobson Bradford will also provide strength on the defensive side.
Once again, the Bobcats will be facing some of the stiffest competition in the northeast.
With teams such as Boston College, ranked 15th in the country, Villanova, and Central Connecticut, which returns NEC Player of the Year Alex Harrison, not much will come easy for Quinnipiac.
With new additions and returning players, the Bobcats can prepare themselves for the season ahead.