Evansville - Three Star Recruiting Class - The Purple Aces have been among the greenest teams in the nation for the past two seasons. In 2011 Evansville had seven freshmen in their starting lineup. In 2012 Evansville had a starting lineup that often consisted of eight sophomores and three freshmen.
With eleven starters returning from the 2012 team that was 9-8-1 overall with a 3-2-1 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play Evansville will be a seasoned group in 2013 with its sights set on winning the MVC championship and returning to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 1996.
For many years the road to the MVC championship has pretty much gone through Omaha and Creighton. That will not be the case beginning in 2013 since the Bluejays have moved from the MVC to the Big East Conference. With Creighton out of the mix the task of winning the MVC championship has one less huge hurdle to overcome.
Mike Jacobs will enter his eighth season as the head coach at Evansville in 2013 with a team that has the experience and depth that he has been working toward the past two seasons. Now the issue for Jacobs is finding the best way to put it to use. The Evansville roster contains a lot of versatile and dependable players which will give Jacobs a lot of lineup options and choices regarding how he positions his players. The wildcard is whether the Evansville players can leverage the experience they have gained over the past two seasons to elevate the level of their play to take control of the tough contests that have eluded them in the past.
Do the Purple Aces have enough talent to finish in the top half of the MVC? Yes, no question about that. They will not be shorthanded in terms of experienced personnel, a nice departure from the past two seasons. Can they win the MVC championship and return to the NCAA Tournament? It's conceivable but it remains to be seen whether they have the talent and the mental and physical toughness needed to embrace the grind of the entire season.
Sophomore Faik Hajderovic (5g, 5a) returns to spearhead the Evansville attack up-top after a very impressive freshman season. The speedy Hajderovic is a dynamic 1 vs. 1 attacking player who is particularly difficult to contain when he has the ball in the attacking third. Sophomore Mark Anthony Gonzalez (5g, 1a) who had an equally impressive freshman campaign also returns to add punch to the offense as an attacking midfielder. Gonzalez is a bona fide playmaker who is very effective at creating and finishing scoring opportunities. Athletic sophomore Nate Oppermann (3g, 1a), who was named to the 2012 All-MVC Freshman team along with classmates Hajderovic and Gonzalez, adds yet another dimension to the Purple Aces attack.
Juniors Nick Schroeder (3g, 1a), a 2012 All-MVC Second Team selection, and Dylan Terry (2g, 3a) are among other returning players who will play key roles for Evansville in 2013. Both can play up-top or in the midfield and are among the returning players who will set the pace for the entire team.
Junior Peter May (0g, 1a), who honed his skills playing for the River City Rovers of the PDL over the summer, returns in either a center midfielder or center back role. May has the size and skill needed to perform well in either position. Junior speedster Louis Romero who started fifteen contests last year also returns in the midfield. Romero is a playmaker with great touch on the ball and the ability to be a difference maker.
The backline will be anchored by junior center back Patrick Hodges who has two years of starting experience under his belt. Hodges is among the returning players who must set the pace via his play on the pitch and provide leadership. Junior Charlie Macias returns at left back with the pace and skill needed to push forward to add numbers to the Purple Aces attack. Junior Joel Craig (2g, 0a) returns at right back where he was a starter last year. Juniors Kevin Schafer (0g, 1) and Brandon Causey (1g, 1a) who both saw plenty of action last year at the center back role also figure prominently in the mix in 2013.
Junior Eric Teppen who has been the starter for the past two seasons returns in goal. At 6'4" Teppen is a an imposing presence in goal. Last year he had a 1.39 goals against average and recorded five shutouts. Look for the quality of Teppen's play between the pipes to have a big impact on the level of success that the Purple Aces experience in 2013. He also will have a key role in setting the pace for the entire team.
Jacobs has announced the addition of a seven member recruiting class that includes several players who could contribute immediately. Jacobs stated, "We believe that adding this incoming group gives us quality personnel and depth at every position, and with the solid nucleus we have returning, we should have all the pieces we need to have an outstanding team in 2013."
Junior forward Felipe Cortez who transfers in from Robert Morris University in Chicago is among the newcomers with the potential to immediately bolster the attack. Ditto that for freshman forward Jared Robinson who played for the Columbus Crew Academy. Freshman Landon Souder has the size and speed needed to add depth and be an impact player as a defensive midfielder or as a center back.
It should be an interesting year in the Missouri Valley Conference as SIU Edwardsville and Bradley among others will join Evansville in the quest to fill the vacuum that now exists due to the departure of Creighton. Historically senior dominated teams have always tended to perform well in the MVC. Evansville will seek to prove otherwise in 2013.
Felipe Cortez - Forward - Beach Park, Illinois - Robert Morris University Chicago - A junior transfer who played for the Chicago Fire Academy. Plays for the Chicago Fire Reserves of the PDL.
Tyrus Sciarra - Forward - Walton, Kentucky - Ryle High School - Played for the Lexington FC. A two-time All-State selection. Scored seventy-two career goals at Ryle High School.
Erik Hagan - Goalkeeper - Louisville, Kentucky - J.M. Atherton High School - Played for the River City Rovers. Played for Javanon'95 in 2010. All-Region at J.M. Atherton. Team MVP.
Jacob Hill - Midfield - Mount Sterling, Kentucky - Montgomery County High School - Played for the Bluegrass SC and Lexington FC club teams. All-State selection. Member Kentucky ODP team.
Kyle Richardson - Forward - Vincennes, Indiana - Lincoln High School - Played for the SWISCA FCE team. All-State selection. Four-time All-Area Player of the Year. NSCAA Scholar All-American.
Jared Robinson - Forward - Powell, Ohio - Olentangy Liberty - Played for the Columbus Crew Academy team. Member of the Ohio South ODP team. Led high school team to a state title. A goal scorer.
Landon Souder - Midfield - Harrodsburg, Kentucky - Mercer County High School - All-State. NSCAA All-Region selection. Region II ODP team. Scholar All-American. Played for the Lexington FC team.