Aug. 31, 2009
After a turnaround season in 2008, Siena is filled with potential and hopes to build on last year's success. Rookie head coach Gareth Elliott instituted a team-first mentality that culminated with the program's most league wins since joining the conference in 1989, and a second place MAAC finish.
"I think as a team, we met expectations last year," said Elliott. "We wanted to get into the MAAC Tournament and we did that."
The Saints finished 9-8-1 overall and 7-2 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last season. They were picked to finish eighth in the league. This year there has been little more respect for the team that defeated seven of nine league opponents a year ago. The Saints were picked sixth in this year's preseason coaches' poll and will look to repeat their surprise season from 2008.
Elliott and his staff have a familiar feeling of newness to this season with the loss of six letterwinners and the addition of 11 freshmen.
"We're excited to have such a large squad this season," said Elliott, who managed a healthy roster of 17 last year and will have 24 players entering preseason. "The older guys will have to help the young guys adjust because they know the expectations. With a short preseason, it's important the team gels quickly."
Siena returns eight starters and 13 letterwinners from last year's team. Notable returners are All-MAAC Second Team selections Steve Covino and Anthony Tagliaferri and MAAC All-Rookie members David Bonzerato and Matt Turcio.
"The goals for the season are similar every year," said Elliott. "We want to play well together, show consistency throughout, and make the MAAC Tournament where anything can happen."
Senior Bobby Di Filippo, Siena's leading scorer from a year ago, returns up top. He scored six goals and had 14 points in 2008. What's impressive is that he did it all without starting a single game.
Newcomers Matthew Kadoch and Sindre Ek will be looked at to make an immediate impact in the offense. Kadoch is a target player who can hold the ball and can get up in the air. Ek is one of four internationals new to the Saints. He's an explosive player who can finish as well as create for others.
"We're excited to have some added firepower this season," Elliott said. "I think we'll be able to score more because we'll be able to keep the ball more."
The midfield returns key players in Covino, Tagliaferri, Turcio, Sebastien Anzevui, Joe Tavernese and Geoff Narode. Anzevui and Covino started every game at center mid last season. Anzevui was third on the team with 10 points and was always a threat on set pieces.
Tagliaferri was second on the team in scoring with 12 points, 10 of which he tallied in the season's last five games. He's a dangerous attacking midfielder who's capable of taking over a game. Turcio established himself as an impact player in his first year, scoring two goals and adding four assists.
Tavernese started 13 of 16 games last season. He tallied seven points including the game winner at Rider (10/17). Narode appeared in 15 games and had one assist last season. His versatility allowed him to play in the midfield or on defense.
New additions to the midfield include local product Joe Miner, Sean Sullivan, Ontario native Emery Welshman, Paolo Luciano, Chris Medina, and Daniel Alderstad. Miner was a three-year letterwinner for Shenendehowa High School and earned First Team All-Section II honors as a senior. Sullivan is a technical midfielder who lettered three years at Minnechaug Regional in high school. Welshman is an attacking midfielder with a good soccer IQ. Luciano is Valhalla High School's all-time leader in goals (46). He is a versatile player who could see time in midfield or at forward.
Alderstad, a 5-10 center mid from Sweden, can play both offensively and defensively. His team won the Swedish National U18 Tournament in 2007. Medina is a left sided player with a nationally recognized club team background.
Siena's defense lost two of its four starters, Ross Cardinell and Brian Woodfield, to graduation. Returning is Bonzerato and senior Zach Gosse. Bonzerato started all 18 games at center back as a freshman, asserting himself as a solid defender early on. Gosse is a physical player who became a fixture as injuries decimated the defense early last season.
Also returning are juniors Nick Viaggio and Joe Tempone. Viaggio missed the entire 2008 season due to injury, but started all 20 games as a freshman. The coaching staff hopes he can have a bounce back year. Tempone appeared in nine games last season.
Freshmen Jannis Opalka and J.T. Daeumer will add depth on the defensive end and will compete for playing time immediately. Opalka, a 6-3 central defender from Germany, will provide experience and stability to the back four. Daeumer is a hardnosed team-first player who could see time on the left side.
"We are excited with the blend of talent at our disposal on defense," Elliott said. "The returning players will help integrate the freshmen and create a cohesive unit."
Junior Steve Skonieczny has started every game (36) since arriving in Loudonville. He made 106 saves (5.59/game, 11th in the nation) and recorded four shutouts last season.
Competing for playing time in goal is sophomore Zade Haobsh and freshman Philip Chabot. Haobsh added to Siena's goalkeeping depth last year and helped the team improve in practice. Chabot is a good shot stopper with the potential to play right away.
Siena will play 19 (10 home, 9 away) regular season games in 2009 which includes five 2008 NCAA Tournament participants (Colgate, UMass, Boston College, Loyola and Fairfield).
The Saints open at Vermont (9/1) before the first of two three-game homestands in two weeks. Siena hosts Rhode Island (9/6) in its home opener, Sacred Heart (9/8) and St. Bonaventure (9/11).
After a night game at Colgate (9/15), the Saints return to play Central Connecticut State University (9/19), cross-town rival UAlbany (9/23) and UMass (9/26). The Minutemen made the NCAA Final Four just two years ago.
Siena finishes its non-conference schedule on the road at Boston College (9/29) and Temple (10/3).
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play begins at home against Iona (10/9) and defending champion Fairfield (10/11) who defeated Siena in the semifinals last year. The Saints then hit the metropolitan area to face Saint Peter's (10/16) and Manhattan (10/18).
Siena's last weekend at home brings Rider (10/23) and preseason favorite Loyola (10/25) to Loudonville. The regular season concludes with the Western New York trip to Niagara (10/30) and Canisius (11/1) followed by a potentially critical night game at Marist (11/6) the next weekend.
The four-team MAAC Tournament will be played on November 13 and 15 in Fairfield, Conn.