Thu, Aug. 23, 2012 - [Men's Soccer]
Rio Grande Sports Information
RIO GRANDE, Ohio - The University of Rio Grande men's soccer team begins its 2012 schedule and quest for an NAIA national championship this weekend, traveling to Chicago for a pair of contests.
Veteran head coach Scott Morrissey's RedStorm, which is ranked No. 4 in the preseason coaches' poll, will square off with 25th-ranked St. Xavier University on Friday, at 8 p.m. (EST), before wrapping up the road swing on Sunday afternoon in a 2 p.m. kickoff with Illinois Tech.
Rio Grande finished the 2011 campaign with a 19-3 record and a No. 5 ranking after suffering a season-ending 3-1 loss to William Carey (Miss.) in the quarterfinal round of the NAIA national tournament.
Despite the dazzling overall, the season-ending loss left a sour taste in the mouth of Morrissey.
"We didn't deserve to win the William Carey game. We made critical mistakes and we had multiple personnel who just didn't follow the gameplan that we needed to advance," he said. "Hopefully, we've corrected those issues this year. The changes this year, personnel-wise, have been very good in a number of different ways. The dynamic and team chemistry that we have now as we get ready to start a new season is better than it's ever been. It's been fun to come to work and interact with the team that we have. I'm excited about getting started."
The RedStorm does have a solid core of returnees, though, with senior forward Richard Isberner , a first team All-American and the reigning Mid-South Conference Player of the Year leading the way.
A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Isberner led the country in points (76), while tying for the national lead in assists (18) and finishing second nationally in goals scored (29).
Rio also returns senior forward Rafael Maccauro (Sao Paulo, Brazil), a first team All-MSC selection, who scored two goals and assisted on 15 others; senior midfielder Oliver Hewitt-Fisher (Swansea, Wales), who had six goals and 10 assists last season; and senior goal keeper Jack Marchant (Leeds, England), who recorded 54 saves and allowed just 20 goals in 22 games.
"The returning players we have are top-notch," Morrissey said. "They've come back re-energized and with a completely different mindset. You can tell a big difference in a bunch of them. They've had a lot of time to reflect on last season."
There are a handful of new faces who have also joined the mix and who should have an immediate impact on the RedStorm's level of success this fall.
"I couldn't be happier with the new guys we have," said Morrissey. "They're very good players - seasoned players - who also have great attitudes. They're content with being part of a team and that's so much more than what we had last year."
Montreat (N.C.) College transfers Maximiliano Viera and Cesar Lopez, who helped lead the Cavaliers to an Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament championship last fall, are the most notable additions.
Viera, a junior midfielder from Montevideo, Uruguay, was a first team All-AAC pick after recording 17 goals and five assists. He ranked second in the league in goals and third in points.
Lopez, a sophomore defender from San Salvador, El Salvador, was named a third team all-conference honoree.
"Cesar may have been our top player in the preseason. He's been unbelieveable," said Morrissey. "He's been a great defender, he can get himself into the attack, he's a great technical player who understands whatever position we've stuck him in, he's so positive, he works hard - and those same things can be said about Maxi. They've been a pleasure to be around."
This weekend's season-opening trek to Chicago will be anything but easy for Morrissey's club.
"We're excited about the trip," he said. "St. Xavier made the round of 16 in the national tournament last year and very easily could've beaten (then-No.1 and eventual national runner-up) Hastings - they're that good. They have an unbelievable goalkeeper and they're well-coached. We haven't played Tech in a couple of years, but the last time we did, they had us down 3-0 after 18 minutes. I'm sure they'll be ready to play, too."