HANOVER, N.H. – After a 9-7 campaign, highlighted by a second-place finish in the Ivy League with a 5-2 conference record, the Dartmouth men’s soccer team is ready to hit the pitch.
Despite their seventh straight winning season, the Big Green’s program record run of five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances came to end leaving the 2013 squad hungry.
In 2012, six of Dartmouth’s 16 contests went into extra time. The daunting slate also saw 11 games decided by one goal. In overtime the squad went 2-4 and in one-goal games they were 5-6. After the slow start and a challenging schedule, the Green and White picked up steam in October winning five of their six tilts, including a season-best three-game winning streak with conference triumphs over Penn, Columbia and Harvard.
With a strong core of returning players and an impressive crop of incoming student-athletes the Big Green are poised for another successful season. Some familiar names on the Dartmouth sideline will be in new roles as Chad Riley, last year’s top assistant is now the head coach and Chase Wileman moes up to first assistant. The members of the Class of 2017 will not be the only new faces on the sideline as the Big Green have also added Ryan Fahey as an assistant coach
The team from the Upper Valley has much to look forward to on the field this year as three All-Ivy players return, including leading goal-scorer Alex Adelabu. Colin Heffron and Colin Skelly are the other returnees who boast conference accolades as they look to solidify the midfield and defensive backline, respectively.
Recently, head coach Chad Riley took some time to sit down and discuss the upcoming season and his team with DartmouthSports.com.
Heading into your first season as head coach at Dartmouth, what’s your outlook for the 2013 season?
Chad Riley: The staff and I are certainly eager to get started. We felt we had a very productive spring and now we are just looking to pick up where we left off. We have a great mix of youth and experience and this should serve us well throughout the season. We certainly lost a few key players from last year’s team and I am excited to see who steps up and fills these spots for us. That is one of the things I really love about college sports; every year it is a new team and someone new has to step up. We feel we have good options, but now during our pre-season we have to observe a little and see how guys react to new roles.
What are the team’s goals and expectations this year?
Chad Riley: Our expectations are always the same at Dartmouth, we want to win the Ivy League Championship and get to the NCAA tournament. Once we are in the NCAA tournament it is a new season, and we will again take it one game at a time. But more than that we want to get as close to our potential as a team as possible. That is our real test, how good can we become over the next few months both collectively and individually.
Although you worked under Jeff Cook for a year, do you think the attitude and the culture of the program has changed since you took over? Or are you reinforcing the values and approach he instilled.
Chad Riley: I think it will be a little bit of both, but really any good coach evolves every year and I think that is something Coach Cook did very well. Every year you are tweaking things here and there to get a little bit better. I think the nice thing is that some of the ideas that I brought in when I first got here we are still working on and developing. I believe we will reap the rewards of continuity this year and beyond. We are always evolving what we do both through training and recruiting.
After a second place finish in the Ivy League last season, what is the team doing to regain a conference championship?
Chad Riley: That work really started last January with our winter term and continued through our trip to Scotland and our spring season. The squad has kept a tremendous focus during the non-championship portion of our season. When you have a competitive and driven group, anytime you have some disappointment it really serves to focus your attention. I think that has certainly happened for our group. I know this group was disappointed to be so close last year, I know they are hungry.
With a strong core of returning players and a talented crop of incoming recruits how will the loss of several key positions be filled?
Chad Riley: I think we have some ideas and certainly have some strong players coming in, but we really won't know until we get to work in pre-season. We will do some teaching and some observing to see what we have, but overall we are very pleased with the group we have.
Last year Alex Adelabu had a breakout season, can you talk about his goal scoring abilities and what it means to have such a potent scorer on your attack?
Chad Riley: Alex did have a fantastic season last year, and we expect even more from him this fall. He is a very driven young man and is a dynamic forward. He continues to work on his game and has put a lot of work in this year, and I know we will see the rewards from this work. I also think he has a great supporting cast in his partners up front as well as the service he gets from the midfield, we are hoping that he knocks in a few more goals, but we would like to see more goals out of the entire squad.
Once again the Big Green has a challenging non-conference schedule. Taking on Boston College who the team has run into several times in the NCAA Tournament. As well as Kentucky and South Carolina of the SEC. How does playing such a daunting out of league slate help the players prepare mentally and physically for Ivy League action and postseason play?
Chad Riley: I think you always want to challenge yourself with your schedule and this year we will have some great contests. The biggest thing it does for you is that it lets the guys know that no matter who you are playing, the field is always roughly the same size there is always just one ball and the other team can only have 11 players on the field at any one time. Soccer is a game that truly any team can win on any given day. Some games we will be the favorites and some we will not, but we know that there is always a way to win, we just have to figure it out and execute on the day.
And lastly, just add any other comments you’d like to make about the upcoming season?
Chad Riley: I know the staff and the players are really looking forward to having a few games early at Burnham field to really kick off this season. In my first year I was continually amazed at the wonderful support we had from the Dartmouth students to the local community. It is such a great atmosphere for our players to play in. We are really looking forward to stepping out on Burnham and seeing what we are made of.