Preface: Since penning this article, the Wildcats have continued their unbeaten preseason into the regular season, now standing at perfect 3–0. Not so middling after all Clement, huh? While it remains to be seen if the ‘Cats can continue this form into conference play, they’ve certainly hit the ground running. With the likes of previously scoreless junior, Coleman Richards, suddenly scoring 2 in 2, it appears this team may be better than anyone could have previously anticipated.
Picked to finish 10th in the annual A-10 preseason poll, this season looks to be an improved yet middling one for the wily but somewhat un-extraordinary Wildcats. Returning 8 starters from a team that finished above only George Mason’s winless squad in conference, Davidson should improve upon their two win mark of last season.
While lacking a preseason all-conference selection, this veteran-laden roster should rely on its cohesiveness and experience as 16 of its 27 rostered players are upperclassmen. In lieu of a true superstar like graduated top scorer and all conference selection Maxi Pragnell, that experience will be key to the team’s chances of exceeding its predicted tenth place finish.
The strength of this year’s team, lies in the defense, with last year’s back line returning intact. No-nonsense Senior-captain Matt Reinikka will anchor this back four alongside fellow senior, Nathan Marder, upon his return from injury. It doesn’t get much more solid than reliable junior right fullback, Jordan Hill. Hill, who doubles as a center back, is much more of a traditional defender than a vertically marauding wing-back, whereas speedy senior co-captain Cort Coxhead provides a killer final ball from wide positions. Also watch out for dynamic sophomore fullback Malcolm Mccabe, a speedy and shrewd two-way player, who started thirteen games last year as a freshman. Given the team’s penchant for absorbing pressure and looking to counter, Coach Spear will be relying on his veteran back line to keep the opposition off the scoresheet and find the forwards in transition.
Moving forward, in the middle of the park, either senior anchor man Zach Marks or the fiery Seattle born answer to Lee Cattermole, A.K.A. sophomore John Dale, will bring some grit to the engine room alongside senior midfield maestro, Hunter Howard. Freshman Jamie Diluzio, the former #1 New York state recruit, looks likely to contribute immediately and perhaps potentially push Dale and Marks for a starting spot. Additionally, junior Matthew Gandier impressed in preseason but didn’t feature for one reason or another in the season opener.
Out wide, Peterson and Chau will provide the width, although the latter will likely find himself deputizing at right back more often than not when Hill is shifted to center back. Offensively, the team’s most obvious x factor comes in the form of sophomore focal point Jaylen Thompson. Thompson’s speed and dribbling prowess together make him a formidable wind player and a handful for the opposition. Those capabilities together with his continually improving hold up play make him my pick for an all conference selection come the end of the year.
In goal, the hole vacated by the graduated Andrew Kenneson looks to be filled by senior Sam Bissett, but with a freshman, sophomore, and junior on his tail and all having seen time in preseason, his job is far from locked up.
Finally, with the forward positions, just like in goal, the battle for Pragnell’s vacated lone striker role will likely go the way of Alexander the Great’s dying words: “To the Strongest”. Senior Danny Davis looks to be the favorite, but sophomore Charlie Caswell has played well in preseason and could very well be relied upon as the starting option. Likewise, freshman forwards Quinn Dudek and Hugh Chatham will hope to stake claims for game time in the role as well. Underneath the lone forward, the “shadow striker” role looks to belong to Morrissett, who looks to create chances for both Caswell and Davis as well as for himself.
Bottom line in two years time, this team should be a potent force with the likes of Thompson, Mccabe, Morrissett, and Diluzio as upperclassmen. If Coach Spear can effectively complement that core of players, then the 2019-2020 Wildcats will be competing for a league title. Until then, however, the Cats will have to battle for every inch in their battle to make waves in the competitive A-10.
If the Wildcats are looking for success both in and outside the classroom this season, then they’ll need to draw upon their philosophy notes and realize Aristotle’s notion that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. With three wins and a draw including preseason and a home opening victory, who knows? If the Cat’s blend of experience and underclass talent can continue then who knows, maybe these wildcats can take that elusive step forward and truly make excellence a habit.