With six starters bidding farewell to UR this past spring including All-American defender Nick Mikolenko the men’s soccer team has quite a large void to fill if they are looking to repeat as University Athletic Association champions.

Not only did the ‘Jackets sit atop the UAA at the end of last season, but they also lost only two regular-season games and advanced into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. And while this year’s squad will miss the impact of their seniors from last fall, the season ahead certainly holds a lot of promise.

Returning for UR is a core of upperclassmen who will look to lead this ‘Jacket team deep into the postseason. The junior and senior classes return a wealth of experience and leadership which will be key to UR’s success. Notable returners on the defensive side of the ball include senior defender Jeremy Gaden and juniors goalie Michael Peacock and defender Phil Proud. Peacock was impassable last fall, holding his opponents to just .51 goals per game while recording six shutouts. He also earned All-Region honors according to d3kicks.com.

On the offensive side of the ball, UR will rely on the experience of senior forward Sean Hantes, senior midfielder Dominic Pellingra and juniors forward Scott Cady, forward JJ Dennstedt and midfielder Timmer McCarthy. Dennstedt was especially strong last year, finishing second on the team in points and second in assists. Hantes was a force up top, recording a team-best five game-winning goals.

The ‘Jackets also return their leading goal scorer from last season, sophomore forward Steve Welles. Welles’s offensive capabilities were key to UR’s success last season. In addition to Welles, sophomores defender Misha Carrel-Thomas and midfielder Jimmy Parrinello will provide excellent energy for the ‘Jackets this fall.

‘We are focusing on getting better each day in an effort to reach our full potential,” head coach Chris Apple said. ‘It is going to be a team effort with no major standouts but rather everyone sharing the load.”

The Yellowjackets will need to reach that potential fast, however, as they will play host to the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons as part of the Flower City Invitational on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Dragons are perennial powerhouses in Division III sports and handed UR one of its two losses last year. The real test for UR, however, will come in the beginning of October, when it begins conference play.

Last year, the UAA sent three teams to the NCAA tournament and, although UR went undefeated in conference last year, only one game was decided by greater than two goals.

The Yellowjackets enter the season ranked No. 10 according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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