08/05/2014 – The 2014 Saints will look to build on the accomplishments of the 2013 squad. After a year of extreme changes in the Aquinas starting line up and roster the team looks to reload and be as competitive as ever.
Coach Joe Veal was proud of what the Saints accomplished in 2013. Veal explained, “I cannot even begin to say how proud I am of our team last year. We lost all four starting defenders and our starting goalkeeper from 2012 and yet we attained a .9 goals against average and were in the top ten for shutouts in the NAIA for most of the season. We also lost 86% of our scoring from 2012 and yet we scored 54 goals. Better yet, the players played as a team as well as any team I’ve coached in 35 years of coaching. It was all about the team, no egos, no selfishness.”
The 2014 Saints will need to replace five starters, all seniors. Gone are First Team All-Conference selection Michael Gagnon, (8 goals, 7 assist) from the midfield. Also, Second Team All-Conference Selection Mitch Torres, (4 goals, 5 assist), leaves a big hole to fill in the midfield. Both Gagnon and Torres were four year starters. Also graduating were second leading scorer, forward Jonathan Spencer, (9 goals, 6 assist), and midfielder Tucker Hogarth, (2 goals, 2 assist), as well as goalkeeper Craig Demshuk, (.92 goals against average).
Although the team will return only six starters from last years team they will have three players who were starters from previous years return to bolster the lineup. Justin Reamon and Mitch Rosendall were both starters on the 2012 WHAC Tournament Championship team. Justin took a year off from his studies and Mitch missed last season to recover from an off season ACL injury. Also returning will be Ryan Wagenmaker. Ryan started two games in 2013 and scored two goals before injuring his knee and missing the rest of the season.
At defense the Saints return all four starting defenders. Returning are central defenders Rico Padilla (Jr., Northview, 1 goal, 1 assist) and Matt Jackson (Jr., Kalamazoo Christian/Grand Rapids Community College, 3 goals). Returning at outside defender will be very strong defender, Jon Malecke (Sr., Detroit Catholic Central, 2 assist) and Alex Detwiler (So., Grosse Point South). Michael Weber (Jr., Traverse City St. Francis, 1 goal, 1 assist) will also look to solidify the defense after playing multiple positions as he filed the role of super sub in 2013. Looking to add depth in the defense are Ty VandePoel, (So., Holland) and Charlie Wait, (Sr., Bryon Center).
The midfield will look very different after losing three of the four starters. The coaching staff will use the preseason to figure out which players will be best suited to help the Saints at midfield. The lone returning starter is Juan Torres (Jr., Northview, 2 goals, 2 assist). Two players will likely transition from defense to the midfield. Peter Brandenburg, (Jr., Mason, 3 goals, 3 assist) often started on defense and moved to the midfield as a game progressed. A defender in 2012, Justin Reamon (Jr., Northview/Hope) will use his attacking ability as a midfielder. Mitch Rosdendall (Jr., Forest Hills Eastern/Western Michigan Univ.), will utilize his possession and distribution skills to help the team with ball control and possession. Challenging for playing time will be a number of returning players including Cam Vela, (So., Forest Hills Northern), Efrain Cano Jr. (So., Wyoming), Melecio Terrones-Luna, (So., Wyoming, 1 goal), and A.J. Broughton (So., Spring Lake). A number of newcomers will also challenge for starting positions and playing time in the midfield.
At forward the Saints return WHAC Newcomer of the Year, Aldony Mendez, (Jr., Northview, 19 goals, 9 assist). Looking to contribute are players Ryan Wagenmaker (Jr., Reeths Puffer/Muskegon Community College) and Yianni Demo, (So. Chippewa Valley).
The big question for the team will be at the goalkeeper position. Four freshmen look to battle for the starting position and significant playing time.
Other changes in the team include the coaching staff and the addition of a reserve team. After Associate Head Coach Rog Garner was named the Head Coach for the Aquinas Women’s Soccer Team, Coach Veal needed to find an experienced assistant. Filling the position is Tony Deakin. Tony is from England and had a very accomplished career at Davenport University. Tony was WHAC Newcomer of the Year his freshman year and was a WHAC First Team All-Conference selection every year he played at Davenport. His junior year Tony was WHAC Player of the Year. Tony played semi-professional soccer in England for Oldham Boro FC as well as for the Cringila Lions FC in Australia for two years. He has over ten years of coaching experience at the club level. He currently is a staff coach for the Grand Rapids Crew. Tony has a USSF C license and also is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Tony is married to former Aquinas women’s player Amanda (Jock).
Also joining the staff is Tim Kelly. Tim had a successful four year career at Hope College where he was a Co-Captain and helped lead the team to a NCAA Division III Sweet Sixteen appearance. He was named to the MIAA All-Conference team two years. Tim is married to Julia and is the Planning Manager for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
Returning to the staff will be Sean Downey. Sean will transition from Student Assistant to Assistant Coach and Reserve Team coach.
“We lost five starters from last year but in reality have nine starters returning with the return of the three players who have started in the past.” explained Coach Veal. “We are all excited about the potential the team has to be successful in the WHAC and beyond. The guys have been working very hard in the off-season and with the leadership of our captains, Rico Padilla, Jon Melecke, and Matt Jackson, as well as our upperclassmen, I have seen improvement with their strength, conditioning, and skills.”
While reloading the roster with talent and depth, the Saints will look to not just match their 2013 success, but build on it and challenge for the WHAC Championship come November.