One goal away from winning the conference championship a year ago, the UTD men’s soccer team has its sights set on returning to the American Southwest Conference (ASC) tournament.
“We always see ourselves playing for a conference championship,” Head Coach Jack Peel said. “My goal for this year is, by the end of the year, to qualify for the conference championship and be playing the best soccer this team is capable of playing.”
Peel’s fellow coaches in the ASC apparently feel UTD is the team to beat as well, having voted the Comets the preseason favorite in the coaches’ poll ahead of UT-Tyler, Hardin-Simmons and McMurry.
Last year’s team was loaded with talent, Peel said, but the Comets didn’t do enough to win some of the close contests.
“We need to try to eliminate the number of easy goals scored against us, and we need to score some of the goals we got two years ago, but not last year. We missed a lot of scoring opportunities,” Peel said.
Although the squad lost five All-conference seniors, Peel doesn’t expect the team to miss a beat once the season starts Sept. 1.
“Some of the juniors from last year who will be seniors have already stepped up. You always have this in college athletics, so you try to develop some of the younger players, and I think we’ve done that,” Peel said.
Peel is counting on a handful of these key returnees to provide strong leadership.
Midfielder Ali Morshedi – last year’s leader in shots and goals scored – will look to spearhead the team, distributing balls to junior forward Jason Hirsch and senior forward Petar Tomov.
Lauded recruit Kevin Atnip from Houston’s Cyprus Creek High School is expected to start in goal for the Comets.
The Comets – who played close games against nationally-ranked Trinity and SMU last year – have a tough non-conference schedule slated for 2004.
“We’ve got some NAIA schools on our schedule who have lots of international students on scholarship. A lot of the players are 25 and 26 years old,” Peel said.
Peel said the tough early schedule should prepare UTD for the rigors of American Southwest Conference (ASC) play, but he admits the Comets may have a losing record heading into matches against ASC foes.
“It’s a gamble sometimes. You can have a soft schedule and build up confidence or you can have a tough schedule to prepare you for conference play,” he said.
Peel elected for the difficult early going, hoping to build on the successes of past years.
“We’ve established a tradition of success here at UTD,” Peel said. “Now it’s up to us to find a way to sustain it.”
The schedule for Men’s Soccer can be found <a href=”http://cometsports.utdallas.edu/MSOC/schedule.htm”>here.</a>