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Men's soccer challenged to succeed following graduation of stellar class of 2016

The men’s soccer team concluded the 2015 fall season with an impressive 10-5-2 final record. Members of the Class of 2016 who must be replaced are the team’s top goal scorer Thomas Sanner and midfielders Brendan McSherry and Nico Hurtado, who amassed a combined total of 28 points.

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In addition to the 2012 Ivy League Rookie of the Year award and 2015 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year award, Sanner also received the William Winston Roger Trophy awarded annually to the top male athlete of Princeton’s graduating class and was selected for the 2015 NSCAA First Team All-Region. His accolades didn’t stop rolling in there, as he was drafted by the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS SuperDraft.

“We graduated a very strong senior class last year, including all three starting forwards and Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year Thomas Sanner,” stated head coach Jim Barlow, regarding a significant change in leadership on the team. “One of our challenges will be figuring out who is going to get us goals, and how we are going to create them. We think we are starting to figure out that process. However, we want to focus on, and emphasize, our ability to defend as we conceded too many preventable goals last year.”

While Sanner was the second player to earn both Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors, Barlow was the first achieve that feat in 1990. Barlow returned to Princeton six years later, joining the men’s soccer program as head coach in 1996. This fall season marks his 21st year with the Tigers, highlighted by three NCAA Tournament appearances, a perfect Ivy League season in 2010, and four Ivy League Championships.

Assistant coaches Steve Totten, Ryan Hayward, Tom Moffat, and Terry Joria, along with student coach senior David Goldstein, also head the men’s soccer program alongside Barlow for the 2016 season.

Because of the loss of the main front line as well as Class of 2016 alumni Josh Miller and starting goalkeeper Ben Hummel in the back, Barlow and senior captain Patrick Barba both asserted the importance of team cohesion for this particular season. “Our emphasis right now is on the team and not individual classes,” said the head coach, “We want everyone on the team, regardless of class, to be ‘all in,’ to give everything they can to the team, and to take on as much responsibility as possible for our team's improvement and success.”

Barba similarly expressed this season’s more unified approach, “This new team has a lot of players that pass the ball really well, and we have a lot of upperclassmen leaders. This is also the first team that I have played on here that doesn't rely on one or two guys to score goals which means attacking is a team mentality.”

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Facilitating this team mentality are the return of veteran midfielders seniors Brian Costa, Bryan Windsor, and Vikram Pothuri and the leadership of Barba on the defensive line. Barba earned First-Team All-Ivy League honors and the Dr. William Trevor Trophy for most improved throughout the 2015 fall season, and will thus provide his team with needed experience and leadership after the departure of Sanner and other members of the 2015 senior class.

“We have talent and strong senior leadership in the goal and in the back, and a veteran group in the midfield,” stated Barlow regarding this year’s leaders. “Our group of seniors has a ton of playing experience and should be prepared for the demands of our challenging schedule.”

After the first three games, two losses against West Virginia and St. John’s and a win against Rider, the Tigers are scheduled to face off against competitive teams, including Cornell, Columbia, and Dartmouth, who were all victorious over the Tigers the last fall season.

Senior defender Greg Seifert, who will anchor the defense alongside Barba, describes the collective goal to earn team titles despite the caliber of competition that lies ahead. “In terms of last season, we thought that overall we were a good team and did pretty well, but we had nothing to show for it,” said Seifert. “We won a bunch of games but we did not get results when it mattered the most. This year we are hungry to win, and to raise a trophy or two at the end of the year.”

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Barlow, however, recognizes the importance of playing one game at a time. “We go into every game with the goal of winning that game, and try to focus on the present. Having said that, we want to continue to build on the successes we've had the past few seasons, and, of course, win the league and go deep into the tournament. But we know it has to be one game at a time, and we just try to stay locked in on the next game.”