Aug. 28, 2008
Fairfield, CT - Over the last three seasons, the Sacred Heart men's soccer program has gone through a remarkable rise from NEC doormat to perennial playoff contender. As the new season begins, with one of the best recruiting classes in school history beginning their final season in the red and white, the Pioneers are in search of the ultimate goal, a championship.
Since his arrival on campus, goaltender Matt Jones (Stoke-on-Trent, England) has been arguably the most outstanding goaltender in the Northeast Conference and one of the best in the region. Jones had an outstanding freshman year, earning second team All-NEC honors as well as a nod to the NSCAA All-New England Men's Soccer Second Team. After a solid sophomore season, he returned to his All-Star form last year, earning First Team All-NEC and Third Team All-Region Honors. Jones finished the season tied for second in the league with seven shutouts. He was also fourth in the conference in save percentage (.833) and goals against average (0.91).
In front of Jones the Pioneers return a defensive squad that includes three seniors. Team captain Jonatan Allback (Gothenburg, Sweden) is joined by classmates Anthony Anzevui (Newcastle, England) and David Backman (Gothenburg, Sweden). The trio has anchored the SHU backline for the last three years, becoming one of the top defensive units in the league. Backman was a First Team All-NEC selection last season.
A quartet of high-powered offensive players return for the Pioneers as well. Perhaps the best scorer in SHU's short Division I history, Jason Tessitore (Orange, CT) is ready for his final season in the red and white. Tessitore, A first team All-NEC selection as a freshman, led the team in goals last year, finding the back of the net seven times. He has led the team in scoring. Joining him on the forward line will be 6-4, 215 pound junior Jesper Fredriksson (Gothenburg, Sweden). After bursting on the scene as a freshman, Fredriksson will try to bounce back from an injury-plagued sophomore season this year.
Two veterans will patrol the SHU midfield in senior captain Luke Gagliardi (North Branford, CT) and senior Nemanja Filimonovic (Belgrade, Serbia). Gagliardi earned Second Team All-NEC and Third Team All-Mideast Region honors for his play in the midfield where he registered a goal and assist. Other returning players who played significant roles for the Pioneers in 2007 include sophomores Gincarlo Massaro (Woodbridge, CT), Lusiano Dadario (East Haven, CT) and Mario Millili (Shelton, CT).
Five new faces will join the Pioneer squad this year and several of them could make an immediate impact. On defense Aaron Keily is expected to join the veteran defensive starters as the fourth back, while Jonathan DeFelice will compete for time in the backfield as well. Joining the midfield ranks are two transfers, Filipe Celikkaya (Almada, Portugal) and Denis Brunotte (Flintbek, Germany) while Luca Condotta (Ontario, Canada) joins the front line for Sacred Heart.
The Pioneers will open the season on Friday August 29th at Providence College. A week later, on September 5th, SHU makes the first of eight appearances on Campus Field as they face Maine in their home opener. The Pioneers will also host Holy Cross and Dartmouth in non-conference play during September. SHU visits Adelphi, Iona and Yale in the span of a week during the middle of the month.
October brings the Pioneers into NEC play, which they will begin with a three game road trip starting October 12th at Fairleigh Dickinson. The following weekend SHU takes on its in-state rivals as they visit Central Connecticut and Quinnipiac. The NEC's Pennsylvania teams come to Connecticut October 24th and 26th as the Pioneers host Robert Morris and St. Francis (PA).
Following a non-league home match against Army, the Pioneers travel south to take on league foes Monmouth and Mount St. Mary's October 31st and November 2nd, respectively. Sacred Heart closes out the regular season at home as they host LIU and St. Francis (NY) November 7th and 9th.
The Northeast Conference tournament, featuring the top four teams in the league standings, will be held November 14-16 at the home of the highest seed.