Last year, Brad Hauter’s team left the College of Wooster on Oct. 5 with a 2-0 win, everything was falling into place. They had an undefeated record, plenty of momentum and their matchup with top-ranked Ohio Wesleyan University was coming at the perfect time.
A week later, the Battling Bishops’ 3-1 win stole DePauw’s confidence and set the tone for the rest of their season.
In the first 11 games, the Tigers were 10-0-1. Once their unblemished record was spoiled, the team limped in, winning only four of their final nine games.
The Tigers still finished with a respectable 14-2-3 record, but fell to the Bishops for a second time, on this occasion in the conference tournament, a loss that ended their season.
“Losing in the first round of the NCAC tournament last year was tough and hopefully is a memory that will drive us throughout the season this year,” Hauter said.
With 30 players returning from last year, however, Hauter’s players will have plenty of memories to draw on.
"The level of play in the NCAC is higher than it was at this time last year,” the coach said.
Hauter’s plan relies heavily on the high expectations for senior and two-time captain Andy Morrison.
“Most importantly, everyone on the team wants to win a national championship. That’s kind of been our goal for the last few years as our program has taken itself to the next level,” Morrison said.
While Ohio Wesleyan University will give the Tigers the most trouble in NCAC play, their non-conference schedule should be a challenge as well.
“We want to play [Ohio Wesleyan] every single day if we can,” Morrison said. “We have a couple more teams, such as John Carrol, Ohio Northern and Thomas Moore on the schedule this year that will be good tests as well.”
Coach Hauter expects Morrison to lead the team both on and off the field, a position that the forward is already familiar with.
“His leadership is incredible; his work-rate in unequaled and his talent is endless... [Morrison] sets the tone and pace for our training sessions. He has grown incredibly over his four years and turned himself from a ‘potential pro’ into a ‘soon to be pro,’” Hauter said.
In addition to Morrison, senior goalkeeper, Jake Pezzuto will also play a key leadership role.
“[Pezzuto’s] leadership, work ethic and commitment to this team is at another level,” Hauter said. “Having both of these guys on the field is like having two coaches out there with the team.”
The team is setting themselves up for success, but unexpected injuries can always cause gaps in the team roster. To help with this, Hauter has built in a new dynamic stretching element into practices that include partner stretching and plyometric stretches.
Besides stretching, the team has been doing many possession drills in practice, especially working on switching the field in order to avoid costly turnovers.
The team faced it's first test in an exhibition game today against Northern Illinois.
“Northern Illinois is a Division I team but we feel like we can definitely go out and compete with them. We have some guys that are battling some injuries but we feel pretty confident,” Morrison said.
In the end, the Huskies proved too difficult for the Tigers to handle, as they took the contest 4-0.
The Tigers will play one more exhibition matchup next Sunday against Illinois Wesleyan University before opening regular season play against John Carroll University on Aug. 29.