Hartford, Conn. – The Trinity College men's soccer team, under the direction of two-time New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Coach of the Year Mike Pilger (14th season), will rely on a handful of proven veterans and a host of young but talented players as the Bantams look to return to post-season play for the third year in a row in 2017. Trinity battled admirably through its brutal 2016 schedule with an injury-ravaged roster and finished 7-7-2 including an appearance in the NESCAC Championship Quarterfinals. Trinity senior tri-captains Tim Peng (Sharon, Mass.), Cody Savonen (Orleans, Mass.), who is back for a fifth year at Trinity after missing almost all of last season with an injury, and Mateo Zabala (Paterson, N.J.) provide leadership on a squad that looks to play its way deeper into the post-season this autumn. Trinity opens the 2017 campaign tomorrow night at home against Rivier in the inaugural game at the team's new soccer stadium, before opening up NESCAC play at 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 9 against Williams College.
Zabala, who has seven wins, 73 saves, and a 1.14 GAA in over 1,500 career minutes since 2014 at goalkeeper returns for his fourth and final season, but has been slowed by injuries late in the summer. Sophomores Griffin Paterson (New Canaan, Conn.) and Patrick Simpson (London, England) are embroiled in a spirited battle for the starting nod as the season begins, and the competition at the position will continue among all four keepers on the roster well into the regular schedule. Whomever ends up in goal from game to game will have the luxury of a stingy and experienced defensive trio that rivals any other in the conference. Junior Alex Steel (Weston, Mass.) and sophomore Michael Burns (Oreland, Pa.) are both stellar returning backfield starters, and Alex Bednarek (Berlin, Conn.), who started 29 games on defense in 2014 and 2015, returns to the team after a year hiatus. Senior Scott Brazina (Concord, Mass.) and sophomore Max Cottrell (Dover, Mass.) are both versatile athletes who will help the team at several spots including the defense throughout the year. Several upperclassmen and first-year prospects give Trinity a deep backfield, and the rookie crop includes talented defenders ready to contribute right away.
With the Savonen joining sophomore Henry Farr (Bala Cynwyd, Pa.), who emerged as Trinity's top goal-scoring threat down the stretch in 2016, up front and several first-year prospects possessing exciting offensive potential, Pilger's charges should improve on last season's one-goal-per-game average. Savonen is a two-time, all-league honoree with 21 career goals and a College-record 10 game-winners, giving Trinity one of the most lethal finishers in the conference. Farr finished his rookie campaign season with five points, including two game-winning goals, and his production should increase with a year of experience under his belt. Brazina has been effective enough on the attack from the backfield that Trinity hopes to utilize him at forward on occasion this fall.
Peng and junior William Baker (Los Angeles, Calif.) are quality veterans in the middle of the field, and Baker is the lone returning midfield starter over two productive years as a Bantam. Cottrell, primarily a forward in 2016, slides back to defensive midfield but still has the speed to contribute on the offensive end. Trinity must replace Tobias Gimand, one of the top midfielders in New England prior to his graduation in the spring, but with no less than 11 players on the roster at the position, the Bantams hope to replace that production by committee. Overall, exactly half of Trinity's 30 players are freshmen, and Coach Pilger expects that more than 20 will see the field in any given game as the staff looks to find the right combinations. Despite its youthful appearance, Trinity will compete with the best if what Pilger describes as "as good a first-year class as we have ever had" can make a significant impact.