ENMU freshman Rhen Salas (left) tries to break up a pass to sophomore Albert Robinson during Tuesday’s soccer practice. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Playing with a roster comprised largely of freshmen, the Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer team held its own as a first-year program in 2004.
The Greyhounds went 6-12-2, including 3-10-1 in the Southwest Soccer Conference, but six of the loses were by one goal.
Scoring goals is a priority this season as ENMU prepares for Friday’s season opener against Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo. and Sunday’s matchup against Metro State in Denver.
“I thought we did really good last year, but we could’ve done better,” said sophomore forward Albert Robinson, who shared the team lead in goals with Jonathan Holman (five) a year ago. “Once teams got ahead of us, we got our heads down and it was tough to come back.
“We want to improve. We weren’t picked very high (seventh in the eight-team SSC), but we want to prove everybody wrong and I most definitely think we can do that.”
ENMU coach Carlos Elizondo said the Hounds will still be young but have designs on at least reaching the .500 mark this year.
All but five members of the 23-man roster played on last year’s squad.
“Most of our games were close last year, and they’re probably going to be close again,” he said. “We’re better and deeper than last year, and we’re pretty optimistic about what we can accomplish.”
The projected starting lineup is comprised entirely of sophomores.
Leif Craddock is back in goal after starting 19 games a year ago. The defenders are Bryan Jonas, Marcus Leyva, Adam Diehl and Donnell Jackson, all of whom saw considerable action last fall.
In midfield, sophomore Rob Humphrey is a transfer from Fort Lewis (Colo.) and the only non-returnee in the starting lineup. Other midfielders are Ryan Atkinson, Francisco Roman and Andrew Perez, with Robinson and Holman playing the forward positions.
Robinson, who is from Lawton, Okla., said the team has the potential to be competitive in just about any match.
“If we can control the game, we can beat just about anyone,” he said. “I think we can hang with the top teams.
“I think we can have a winning season if we play our game. We have the players to do it.”
After this weekend, the Hounds play 11 of their next 13 matches at home.
“We’re hoping to do really well,” Elizondo said. “The boys have worked hard during two-a-days. The team is still building.”
Midwestern State was picked in preseason to displace defending champion Incarnate Word in the conference race, and Elizondo concurred with that assessment.
“To me the team to beat is Midwestern, with all of their returning players,” Elizondo said.