River Hawks optimistic about new season – Lowell Sun
LOWELL — After making a pair of deep America East tournament runs in 2018 and 2019, the UMass Lowell men’s soccer team struggled to find success when the 2020 season was shifted to the spring of this year.
After limping through an abbreviated 1-6-1 campaign, head coach Christian Figueroa (11th season, 89-74-12), brings back an experienced group, having lost just one starter. Add six promising newcomers and there’s optimism surrounding the club, which opens fall season today with a trip to St. Francis of Brooklyn.
“It was obviously a difficult, challenging spring. We had to clear a lot of hurdles with COVID and our team was affected several times. I think we spent half a month in quarantine with a couple of guys, so obviously that made it difficult, but it gave us a lot of things to look forward to for this season,” said Figueroa. “Having the first preseason in two years has been great for the team, mentally and physically.
“Not being able to train last fall and getting everyone together in the spring without a preseason was just difficult and I know we weren’t the only ones who went through it.”
Among the returners is Chelmsford resident Josh Ofosu, a former Sun Player of the Year, a three-time Merrimack Valley All-Conference selection and a two-time All-State selection. He attended Framingham State before transferring to UMass Lowell.
Ofosu, Chelmsford High’s all-time leader in points, has switched to playing on the backline in college.
“At first it was difficult and I had a lot of questions because it was a new position that I had never played before,” he said. “I was playing it as I went, but once I got to Lowell, more of the experienced players helped me really get suited into the position.”
Through the preseason, Ofosu has seen time at right outside back with Denis Petro on the other side, and Marin Mamut and German Fuentes as the center backs in front of keeper Christian Miesch, who beat out four others for the top spot. Miesch was the America East Rookie of the Year playing for Stony Brook, helping the team win a league title, before playing for Syracuse University each of the past two seasons.
“Christian has come in and has shown the maturity and a level of experience helps us progress to the next level that we’re trying to get to,” said Figueroa. “In our conversations through the recruiting process, it was very positive and it was very evident to both sides that we were a match for each other. He likes the way we play from the back and with the goalies included and that’s a strength of his.”
The midfield core will include Alessandro Marongiu, Matthias Stingl, Guillermo Frances Poquet and Daniel Orrego.
Borna Miklic, Sancho Maroto Tobias, Kai McLoughlin, Jonathan Ferreira, Reziq Banihani will lead UML’s attack, while Victor Viana can be a threat on the outside and will see time as a midfielder.
“We’re getting a little bit more comfortable and used to each other,” said Ofosu. “There’s a little more team chemistry and we have added some great additions so I feel like the team is only going to get better. We just have to keep building off what we have been doing.”