North Adams, MA- The MCLA Men's Soccer program will kick off their 2018 season on Friday night with the first of six straight home matches at the cozy confines of Shewcraft Field. MCLA opens Friday night when they host St. Joseph (CT) at 6pm. The Trailblazers will be looking to improve upon a 5-11 campaign last season and get back into contention within the MASCAC. The Trailblazers were picked to finish 7th in the MASCAC preseason poll released last week.
MCLA will need to replace their top three scorers from last season along with a new goalkeeper. Head Coach Adam Hildabrand, who enters his 12th season, has liked what he's seen so far during the Trailblazers preseason workouts, but also knows the schedule is a difficult one out of the gates.
"It's a pretty exciting schedule that features lots of home games, but it's also a very competitive non-league schedule, which should prepare us for MASCAC play," Hildabrand said. The Trailblazers open with five straight at home, including the season opener this Friday. They'll continue the homestand with a match with Western New England on Sunday before hosting the 2018 CIAO Classic on September 7-8th.
Hildabrand expects to see some familiar faces making an impact right away in new roles. Sophomore Colin Rousseau has moved up to the midfield after spending his rookie season on the back line. Hildabrand is hopeful Rousseau can help MCLA in transition and improve the Trailblazers scoring chances. Another returner that Hildabrand has high hopes for is junior Garrett Derosia. The transfer enters his second season at MCLA and should become a focal point of the front line. A pair of newcomers in sophomore transfer William Walkley and first year Connor Kristiansen will be looking to make a splash as well.
The back line is what the coach calls one of his teams "strengths" this season. Led by Ryan Wanek and Khalil Kareh, the back line should help ease the transition of a new goalkeeper in 2018. MCLA has not named a starter yet, but Hildabrand has stated that sophomore Sean Bradshaw and first year player Aaron Smith have been solid in practice. Also competing for time is another first year keeper in Holvin Nieves.
Hildabrand knows that everything must start with his veteran backfield and that can translate into success for his program.
"We need to be more secure on defense and we return a veteran back line which will help," Hildabrand stated when pressed about his expectations. "If we can then be more confident in possession, we have some talented players who can help us score goals in transition."
The Trailblazers scored just 16 goals last season while giving up 36. MCLA scored just 7 goals in MASCAC play while allowing 14 as they went just 2-5 in the conference.
MCLA will open league play on Friday, September 14th when they take on Worcester State.