ORONO – University of Maine senior soccer striker Jimmy Velas said nobody is dwelling on the past.
The Black Bears have undergone a facelift in the wake of a 22-game losing streak.
Maine has a new coach in 1992 Maine graduate Pat Laughlin and 12 new faces to go with 12 returnees from last year’s 0-17 campaign. Maine was outscored 47-9 last fall.
“We’ve put last year in the past. We aren’t thinking about it. We’re trying to move on. This is a whole new season. We have a fresh start,” said Falmouth’s Velas.
Senior center back and captain Kiaran McCormack said, “we aren’t going to win the NCAA Tournament but we hope to be [more] competitive. Making the [America East] playoffs is definitely a possibility.”
McCormack added that Laughlin has brought a “more professional” approach to everything and said the players are “more on board” now.
He also said there is more competition for playing time, which is elevating the level of play.
The 37-year-old Laughlin, a former assistant at the University of Rhode Island, has realistic expectations and said the players have been extremely coachable.
“I like this team a lot. We want to continue to progress and get better every time we’re out there. At the end of each game, we want to be able to say we did everything possible to win the game. And we’re going to win as a group of 24. No single guy is going to win a game on his own,” said Laughlin. “Our strength is going to have to be our team concept.”
In goal, senior Giacomo Brunino played in 12 games last year but is injured (quad strain) so senior Ben Piotrowski, who played in four games, and transfer Nemanja Kostic from Serbia are vying for the job.
Laughlin will rotate five players into the four fullback slots with McCormack, senior Dan Eggert and Providence College transfer Kyle LeDuc of Topsham being the mainstays.
Sophomore Dave Burke and Albion senior Marshall Holmes also will be in the mix as will newcomer Corey Sinclair, a junior college transfer.
Laughlin considers Sinclair the team’s “best athlete” but they are awaiting clearance from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Sophomore Marc Goulet has had an “outstanding preseason,” according to Laughlin, and he will headline an inexperienced but promising midfield.
Freshmen Tom McCole. Adam Baxter and Alex Rickett have good potential, according to Laughlin, although McCole is currently sidelined by injury.
Sophomores Phil Reed of Gorham and Sean Meehan of Portland and freshmen Brendon Rogers and Mikael Wasiuk will also see playing time.
Junior Dimitri Anastasiou is the top returning scorer with two goals and he will be part of a four-man rotation in the two forward spots.
He will be joined by Velas and former Falmouth High teammate Pat Halligan, a transfer from UConn, along with junior college transfer Kyle Shangraw of Westbrook.
Maine opens at home against UMass at 3 p.m. Friday.
UMAINE MEN’S SCHEDULE
31 – Massachusetts, 3 p.m.
5- vs. Holy Cross at Yarmouth, 7 p.m.
7 – at Harvard, 2 p.m.
9 – at Northeastern, 1 p.m.
13 – at Brown, 3 p.m.
18 – at Boston College, 4 p.m.
21 – vs. Sacred Heart at Yarmouth, 7 p.m.
23 – Long Island University, 1 p.m.
30 – at Rhode Island, 3:30 p.m.
6 – New Hampshire, 2 p.m.
10 – at Boston University, 7 p.m.
13 – UMBC, 1 p.m.
17 – Hartford, 3 p.m.
20 – at Binghamton, 7 p.m.
24 – Vermont, 3 p.m.