|Alex Montalbano is one of three seniors and one of three captains on this year's squad.|
The College of Wooster men's soccer team has shown improvement over the past two years under head coach Andy Zidron, and if the offseason was any indication Zidron expects that trend to continue.
And it all starts with culture.
"I would go head-to-head with anybody on our culture," Zidron said. "I think that will set us up for success. It's taken a long time to get it where we need it, and I think last spring was the first time it finally looked like what an offseason needs to look like."
The culture that Zidron strives for includes "values that are rooted in family, hard work, constant improvement and servant leadership."
"We are about the collective and believe that being a part of the Scot Soccer Family means more," he said. "Our guys have really embraced the challenge of getting better each day. What we're doing isn't glamorous, and it's hard work but fruitful.
"The collective has committed to this process and something more. For me, that something more is each other. It's a commitment to serving each other and The College in the pursuit of something special."
Zidron, who enters his fourth year at Wooster, took the program from four wins in 2016 to six last year. The Scots lost four seniors from 2017 and return three for 2018 – Andrew Klein, Alex Montalbano and Ousmane Sy.
One of those six wins came against DePauw University, which was just their second win in 12 meetings against the Tigers. The Scots finished NCAC play as one of the top teams defensively, and they never lost by more than two goals all season.
Zidron hopes to translate that defensive success into more opportunities on the offensive end.
"We might concede a bit more defensively, but hopefully that gives us a little bit more of that offensive punch that we need," he said.
Zidron wants to build off the press and use his team's speed to its full ability. One option to open things up is to bring Sy from the backfield and more into the playmaking opportunities.
"He's a very good competitor," Zidron said. "He gets up and down the line, and he's very difficult to beat. He's a lockdown defender because of his athleticism, and we're hopeful to be able to give him more of an offensive presence this year to cause some problems."
"Manny is a terror out there," Zidron said. "If he can add another 2-3 goals that's going to be huge for us. There are not a lot of guys who are going to keep up with him when he gets a positive touch."
In five of the six wins from 2017, the Fighting Scots shutout their opponent. Goalkeeper Will Collis collected four of those and added another in a scoreless tie against Denison University as he returns for his junior campaign as one of three team captains.
Wooster's other two captains are Connor Hawkins and Montalbano. Being seniors, Montalbano, Klein and Sy will be called upon as leaders of the group.
"I know they want to leave on a high note and be able to look back and say, 'I was a part of something special and was able to help this program take another step in the right direction,'" Zidron said.
Sophomores BJ Tally and Dani Halbing return to reinforce the backfield. According to Zidron, junior Brent Pederson developed well in the spring as another defensive option, and the Scots should get some help from Division I transfer Zacharias Andreou (Marquette University).
Midfielder Charlie Krus appeared in 14 games as a freshman and fellow sophomore Evan Lewandowski should see more playing time after making five appearances last year. Stefan White returns to join the midfielders, and Hamilton Schattgen will back up Collis in goal.
Those collection of players along with assistant coach Devyn Spielvogel will all contribute to what makes up Wooster's culture for this season and beyond.
"Coach Devyn has become a huge part of our culture and a huge asset to the family," Zidron added.
Wooster opens up play Sept. 1 at Washington and Jefferson College. The Scots' first home game is Sept. 6 against Grove City College.