FAIRFIELD, Conn. – After narrowly missing out on the Northeast Conference tournament in 2012, the Sacred Heart men's soccer team returns to the pitch for the 2013 season this Friday at Stony Brook. The Pioneers then open up the home slate on Sunday, Sept. 1 against Siena at Campus Field. Last season, Sacred Heart was 6-2 at home.
Led by ninth-year head coach Joe Barroso, the Pioneers were picked to finish fourth in this season's Northeast Conference preseason coaches' poll. In 2012, Sacred Heart was 5-5 in the NEC with seven conference matches decided by one goal. Overall, 13 of the Pioneers' 17 games in 2012 were decided by one goal. Even for the season, Sacred Heart scored 20 goals while allowing 19.
The Pioneers will have a new look defense in 2013 with the departures of four key starters, including three-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year and two-time NSCAA All-American Marcello Castro. As a defender, Castro led the Pioneers with nine goals in 2012 and had 23 in his four-year career. With the position wide open, junior Artur Jorge (Shelton, Conn.) and Joshua Mathews (Shelton, Conn.) look to lead the Sacred Heart backline. Jorge played in 11 games a year ago, making six starts as Mathews appeared in 10 games with one start. Sacred Heart will also look to Callum Smith (London, England) to step up on defense. The Pioneers could also look young on defense, with four freshmen who could also compete for playing time.
Tucker Hackett (Madison, Conn.) returns for his sophomore season in goal for Sacred Heart. As a freshman, Hackett made 11 starts and played in 14 games for the Pioneers. He posted a 6-6 record with a 1.31 goals against average and one clean sheet. Joining him in patrolling the nets are junior transfer Dylan Strachan (Fairfield, Conn.) and freshman Austin Maggiolo (Pearl River, N.Y.).
Sacred Heart looks to be especially deep in the midfield, led by senior Konstantine Dekaneas (Ancaster, Ontario) and sophomore Mahmoud Kafel (Fairfield, Conn.). Dekaneas and Kafel were two of only three players last season to start all 17 matches for the Pioneers. Kafel tied for second on the team in his freshman season with three goals and seven points, scoring two game-winning goals. All told, Sacred Heart returns eight midfielders who played in at least 10 games in 2012. Junior Andrew Butterworth (Haverhill, Mass.) started all 16 games he played in last season with Andrew Borts (Barrington, R.I.) appearing in 15 matches with one start. Marcelo Simoes (Ouro Fino, Brazil) and Evan Kennedy (Newtown, Conn.) each played in 14 games in 2012 as Giancarlo Maurello (Rego Park, N.Y.) and Joey Lyons (Hauppauge, N.Y.) also are on that list.
The forward position is led by senior Ronaldo Vieira (Framingham, Mass.). Vieira tied Kafel for second on the team in 2012 with seven points, leading the Pioneers with five assists. Sophomore Jamal Vinson (Teaneck, N.J.) had a pair of goals in his rookie campaign last season, scoring the game-winner against Columbia. Senior Aaron Burrell (Tampa, Fla.) played in 14 games in 2012, proving to be a valuable substitute. Freshmen Matt Gordon (Stony Brook, N.Y.) and Chadd Ferro (Colchester, Conn.) will also compete for playing time at the forward position.
Sacred Heart will play eight home matches at Campus Field in 2013, beginning on Sunday, Sept. 1 with a 2 p.m. match against Siena. Two days later, the Pioneers host NJIT for a 7 p.m. matchup. Sacred Heart will also host Yale, UMass-Lowell, and Rhode Island in non-conference play before opening NEC play at Saint Francis Brooklyn on Friday, Oct. 11. The Pioneers home conference opener will be on Sunday, Oct. 13 against Central Connecticut State, with home dates against LIU Brooklyn and defending NEC champions Fairleigh Dickinson in November.