A Chitchat With Coach Cotterell

Goalie Meghan Cyr (blue shirt) looks in dismay as the ball ends
up in the back of the net giving Southern Maine its fifth goal.

Goalie Meghan Cyr (blue shirt) looks in dismay as the ball ends up in the back of the net giving Southern Maine its fifth goal.

Jason Campos

If the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan taught soccer fans and aficionados anything, it was that no team is guaranteed anything. UMass Boston men’s soccer coach Noel Cotterell knows this as well as anyone. With the Beacons’ season schedule to start on Saturday September 7, the team had two weeks to get into shape (with double sessions the first week) and work on team strategy for offense and defense.

Cotterell, who is starting his sixteenth year as the coach of the UMass Boston men’s soccer team, works in the department of University Communications. Cotterell has an even deeper attachment to the university, having graduated in 1982. He knows what it takes to be successful on the field and he thinks that the team on the right track.

“The guys are working very hard. The returning players are looking a lot better than they did at this point last year,” said a smiling Cotterell. “They know what it is like too lose, so they are working extremely hard. This year, they want to get wins.”

Wins were hard to come by last year as the team amassed a record of 5-13, 1-5 in the Little East Conference. Cotterell realizes that a unit needs time together in order to become cohesive. The fact that the team had 11 freshmen last season explains why the team did not achieve further success.

“It (11 freshmen) was one of the reasons why we couldn’t jell as a unit last season,” admits Cotterell. “It took a long time to get those guys up to speed.”

The coach may be facing a similar situation with this year’s squad which when all is said and done, may feature as many as 13 freshmen. However, Cotterell feels that a mix of the old and new does not necessarily spell doom, but in fact breeds excitement.

“We do have a good nucleus of returning players this year and we don’t have anyone on our roster that is a senior this year. We’re still a young team; we are still mostly freshmen and sophomores. These are quality players, and the returning members from last year have learned a lot and hopefully the newcomers will learn from them.”

“We were anxious to get us some players that could help us this year. So we scoured the area to get the quality players that could come in and do just that.”

Cotterell liked what he sees from his players so far, having them shake off the dust from the offseason before attempting to execute designed plays. If the effort put forth in the preseason is any indication, then the coach believes good results will follow when games start to count.

“We need to get everybody back into shape and get them some touches with the ball. The conditioning is actually pretty good. They are a little banged up and fatigued right now (from double sessions), but all the hard work will pay off.”

One position that is a status of flux is the goaltender. Last year, the time at the position was for the most part split between Orlando Torres and Chris DeJoseph with Michael Tady playing sparingly. This year, the only goaltender that is returning is Tady, with Torres graduating and DeJoseph out for academic reasons. In what would seem like an extremely precarious situation may not turn out for the worse, but only time will tell.

“Tady will right now take care of the net,” said Cotterell, no disquiet in his voice. “We have a very capable player coming in, but he’s injured right now. He’s a transfer from BU who, once he gets well, will, I think, be able to push Tady for the starting position. So there’ll be healthy competition at that position.”

Cotterell displays great confidence and respect for his squad’s captain, junior defender Georgio Bantos. For example, the team ran a 4-4-2 formation last year (four defenders, four midfielders, two forwards). However, Bantos has been pushing his coach to run a 3-5-2, a more aggressive and offensive formation. Cotterell knows better than anyone that a switch in formation will only work with hard work and many skilled players.

This season could a breakthrough for the Beacons. In the Little East Conference last season, Keene State, Plymouth State, and UMass Dartmouth ran out front last season, while the Beacons found themselves near the bottom in seventh place. For the preseason Little East Conference poll, Cotterell voted every other team ahead of UMass Boston, not out of lack of confidence in his own team, but out of respect for the other teams.

“Based on the performances of last year, I felt that everyone else deserved to be there ahead of us (in the poll), so I placed us in the eighth slot. However, I think that when the dust settles, we’ll be among the top four teams. That’s our goal. I think it’s realistic, and I think that it will take a lot of hard work.

The outer conference schedule is a good test for his teams. We’ll be facing MIT, and Mass. College (of Liberal Arts), who tends to be one of the premier teams in the New England area. We’ll definitely be tested by them. It’s a good tough schedule to help us get ready for conference play. We have more away games than home games, but that’s not going to bother us. We’re just going to be out there to win games.”