Golden Grizzlies Look to Defense for Three-Peat

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Jason Perry

The Oakland University men’s soccer team is looking to re-write the record books as the Golden Grizzlies have a shot at back-to-back-to-back Mid-Continent Conference titles. Despite youth and inexperience, OU was able to claim its second conference title with a 3-2 conference record and an 8-6-3 overall record in 2001. With a chance at a three-peat the Golden Grizzlies know what needs to be done and knows that the rest of the Mid-Con will be looking to dethrone OU in 2002.

Oakland finished the 2001 regular season with an 8-6-2 record and shared the regular season crown with Oral Roberts and UMKC heading into the conference tournament.  As the No. 2 seed, OU was set to face the third seed, UMKC in the first round of the tourney. At the end of regulation both teams were tied at 0-0.   Despite four overtimes OU and UMKC were still tied heading into the shootout. UMKC was able to shake OU as the Kangaroos netted three goals to the Grizzlies two.

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Anders Vollen

Last year Oakland had to deal with the obstacle of having only three seniors and two juniors. This year OU will have a tougher task as the Golden Grizzlies have no seniors, but will sport five juniors.

"On paper we are a young team," said head coach Gary Parsons. "We are a young team, but not as young as it appears to be. We have a number of kids who we redshirted, so they have more experience than their class status indicates."

The Golden Grizzlies will look to repeat their stellar defense from the 2001 season. The suffocating defense led the conference as OU gave up only 18 goals last year. On the offensive side, Oakland will look to improve as OU was fifth in the Mid-Con with only 49 points and 17 goals.

"Our main goal as a team this year is to play at a higher level," said Parsons. "I hope we are a mature enough team this year that we can take what we built on last year and take it to the next level."

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Brian Williams

Helping OU get to the next level will be a very strong non-conference schedule which includes, Dayton, Marquette, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Akron, Wright State, Creighton and Southwest Missouri State. Oakland begins the 2002 conference season as OU will host Western Illinois October 5.

"Our non-conference schedule has some of the best competition in the Great Lakes Region," said Parsons. "Our non-conference schedule is a way to measure ourselves with other teams in our region and to help us get prepared for the NCAA Tournament."

Enabling the Golden Grizzlies path to the NCAA Tournament is the Mid-Con Tourney which features four of the conferences’ best teams. Oakland has taken an early exit in two of the past three years from the tournament, but hopes things will change this year as OU will look to replace last year's tournament champion, UMKC.

"We might be one of the favorites to win the conference, but I think UMKC is the team to beat," said Parsons. "I think that several teams could end up winning the conference."

In the off-season, Oakland added several new faces to the team. OU had to replace goalkeeper Mike Skolnik, midfielder Chris King and forward Inge Pedersen due to graduation. Parsons and assistant coach Steve Seargant added nine new players to the 2002 roster.

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Ryan Rzepka

"The goal coming into this season in our recruiting was to improve our team especially attacking wise," said Parsons. "I believe we did that, now we just have to figure out were they will fit into the team.

Goalkeeper
Jeff Wiese (Fr/RS., Omaha, Nebraska) should be the number one netminder for the Golden Grizzlies in 2002.  Wiese was reshirted his freshman year and will look to play a majority of the time for OU.  Also vying for time in the net will be freshman Joshua Slaughter (Fr., Troy/ Rochester Hills Christian).  Slaughter was voted the team's Most Valuable Player in 1999 and was a two-time all-Conference selection.

Defense
The biggest strength for the Golden Grizzlies will be the defense, as OU returns Jason Perry (Jr., Southfield/ Southfield), Matt Connor (So., East Lansing/East Lansing) and Bret McNabb (So., Cape Girardeau, Missouri/Cape Central). Perry was redshirted last year, but will look to regain his position as one of OU’s dominate defenders in 2002.  Connor was OU's first sub off the bench in the backfield last year, while McNabb was a starting left back in 2001.  Brian Williams (Jr., Fraser/Fraser) and Ryan Rzepka (So., Novi/Novi) will also look to regain their positions on the back line. Williams played in 17 games for OU and started 16 of them in 2001. Rzepka will be the team captain for the Golden Grizzlies in 2002 as he played in and started all 17 games for OU in 2001.  Scott Cottrell (Fr., Kalamazoo/Central) and Danny Ng (Fr., Randolph, MA/Randolph) will look to compete for playing time this season. Cottrell and Ng were redshirted in 2001 and will look to help OU in its title defense in 2002.

Newcomers that will add depth to the defense are incoming freshman Blake Siberz ( Fr., Urbandale, Iowa/Johnston) and Chris Edwards (Fr., Glasgow, Scotland). Siberz captained his soccer team both his junior and senior year and was named honorable mention all-Conference in 2000 and first team in 2001.  Edwards was a youth player for Partick Thistle FC in Scotland.

Midfield

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Bret McNabb

Returners for the midfield positions are Marcus Halland (So., Vikersund, Norway), Shahar Ktovim (Jr., Holon, Israel), Doug Rice (So., Brighton/Brighton) and Anders Vollen (Jr., Oslo, Norway (Lambertsetter).

Halland played in all 17 matches and was second on the team with eight points as he scored three goals and dished out two assists in 2001. Ktovim played in OU’s first eight matches before being sidelined due to an injury.  Rice played in and started 15 games as he nabbed one goal on eight shots.  Vollen played in all 17 matches for OU as he tallied four points on one goal and two assists.  

Newcomers at the midfield position include Dan Picmann (Fr., Rochester/Adams), Jim Denk (Fr., Park Ridge, Illinois/Maine South), Mark Thomas (Fr., Holywell, England/Holywell) and Kevin Callender (Jr., Novi/Novi). Picmann was named All-League and All-District in 1999, All-District in 2000 and All-League, All-District, All-Region and All-State in 2001. The Highlanders went 38-9-3 in his final two years of high school at Adams as he recorded eight goals and 11 assists his senior year.    Callender was a two-year starter in the midfield at Schoolcraft College and a former standout at Novi High School.  Denk was in the Illinois State O.D.P. program and was a four-year varsity player at Poplar Creek High.  Thomas recently finished his YTS program with Liverpool FC where he played on their U18 team.

Forward

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Philip Braathen

Leading the returnees at the forward spot is Philip Braathen (So., Stavanger, Norway). Braathen led the team last year as he recorded three goals and four assists for 10 points in 13 contests.   Also contesting for a spot up front are Mike Vega (Fr., Westland/Franklin) and Mike Martin (So., Miami, Florida/Southwest Miami).

Vega redshirted in 2001, while Martin saw action in 14 games.  Martin saw action in 14 games and started three of them.   He finished the 2001 season tied for fourth on the team with four points.

Newcomers at the forward spot are Mike Matalavy (Fr., Shelby Twp./Lutheran North) and James Fox (Fr., Olso, Norway).  Matalavy is a state and regional ODP player, as wall as an all-state player from Lutheran North High School.  James Fox is a university transfer from Oslo University and is a former teammate of OU's Braathen.  Fox played club ball for Teisen IF in Norway.

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