Aug 14, 2013 8:06 PM by Kim Westlund
The Cal Poly men's soccer program opened preseason training camp for the 2013 season on Wednesday. The Mustangs return 17 letterwinners from last season highlighted by three All-Big West conference selections and eight starters.
Senior forward, Mackenzie Pridham, will look to lead the Mustangs again this year after becoming the first Big West Offensive Player of the Year selection in program history last season. Pridham finished second among conference players in goals (11) and points (23). He had a six-week training stint with Major League Soccer's Toronto FC this summer.
Joining Pridham in attack is senior George Malki, a 2012 All-Big West second team selection. Malki, a team captain, says " I am ready and more than excited for camp to start." Malki was cleared for full-go practice a month ago after having two surgeries during the off season to repair a sports hernia and to repair a torn hip adductor.
In goal, Cal Poly welcomes back 2012 All-Big West honorable mention selection Wade Hamilton, Hamilton started 11 of 12 conference games as a true freshman last season. He finished second among conference players with a .800 save percentage, fourth with 4.33 saves per match and fifth with a 1.10 goals against average. Hamilton was also a two-time Big West Defensive Player of the Week selection last year.
Finishing out the strong returning class is senior defender Connor Dreshcler who has started all 55 of Cal Poly's matches during his career and led the program in minutes played in two of the previous three years. Dreshcler needs just 15 more games under his belt to become the sixth Mustang in program history with 70-plus career appearances.
The Mustangs are welcoming their TopDrawerSoccer.com's 34th ranked recruiting class with six freshmen for the 2013 season. By the end of last year, the Mustangs found themselves six freshman in the starting line-up. This years class is highlighted by winger Ariel Lassiter (Temecula, Calif.), a two-time Southwestern League Offensive MVP honoree at Great Oak High School.
Head Coach, Paul Holocher says," he has very good speed, great technique and a nose for the goal so I think he's going to be a factor, he's going to find himself on the field for sure."
The Mustangs will endure 16 days of preparation before their season-opening match at Drake on Friday, August 30th. Cal Poly tied a program record last season with 11 wins overall and six conference victories. The Mustangs reached the Big West Tournament semifinals for the fourth time in five years.
During camp, Cal Poly will focus on perfecting its 1-4-3-3 style of play (one goalie, four defenders, three mid-fielders, and three attackers) this season. Holocher implemented the formation last year and says, "it's a great way to play, it promotes passing, it promotes possession, and Its got great field coverage."
"Last year was kind of our first season really embracing that system and that identity. So we have a season under our belt, a winter and spring under our belt. And the whole team, coaching staff and players are really taking it to heart," said Pridham.
The Mustangs will face some of the nations best this season, playing at sixth ranked Creighton (Sept. 1) and at ninth ranked UCLA (Sept. 5) as part of a three game road trip to open the season. Cal Poly starts a five-match home stand at Alex G. Spanos Stadium against Gonzaga on Sunday, September 8th.
The Mustangs will renew the Blue-Green rivalry by hosting UCSB on Friday, October 25th and playing in Santa Barbara to finish Big West play on Saturday, November 9th.
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