Hamline University
August 30, 2012

New HU Mens Soccer Coach Makes Debut Against Tough Foes

2011 Mens soccer

 

 

First things first.  Hamline men’s soccer coach Alex Morawiecki has a simple goal for his team as they prepare to open the 2012 season against a pair of western Division III powers. “I want us to be able to compete,” he said as the Pipers prepped for games this weekend against Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth. “If we do that, good things will follow.”

Morawiecki spent a lot of time on Paterson Field during his four playing seasons with the Pipers. In 2005 (his last season), he was a member of the first HU team in 25 years to make the MIAC playoffs.

Seven years later, he returns as a first year head coach to a team that has 13 players returning from a 4-11-2 season (2-6-2 MIAC) in 2011. Still,  Morawiecki doesn’t consider the new season as a rebuilding effort.

Rebirthing might be more like it.

“They don’t know much about me and, until we started training camp, all I really knew about them is what I saw in five days of spring drills,” Morawiecki said. “But we got better near the end of those five days and we have worked hard in camp this month. We have a lot of potential and the players seem very coachable. That’s a great place to start.”

Morawiecki didn’t have to look far to see what the problem was in 2011. The stat sheet that spit out the fact that HU scored just 18 goals in 17 games spoke volumes.  “Our leading two scorers last year (Michael Murphy and Sam Slagle) were defenders,” he pointed out. “That told me all I really needed to know. We need to develop better habits around the opposing net. From what I can tell, however, we have some people here who know how to score goals.”

One of those is MF Greg Northrop. The junior nailed three before being sidelined with an injury in the season’s 12th game. A healthy Northrop and Tyler Tallaksen, a sophomore forward, may be counted on early to provide offensive leadership. Morawiecki is hoping to find some of the new forwards such as first year player Abbai Habte will be able to make quick adjustments to MIAC play. Habte was a member of the St. Paul Central team that went 15-3 and came within a shootout goal of going to the MSHSL tournament. 

“We will need to be inventive on offense for a while,” said Morawiecki, who was an assistant coach at Division I powers Northern Illinois and Xavier before returning to his alma mater. “Everyone is going to have a role here. We simply need to be organized. Good execution is the key.”

Fortunately for Morawiecki, there are several veteran returnees on the defensive side of the ledger. In addition to Murphy, a junior who has missed just one game in his HU career) and Slagle, a senior who has been a three-year regular, there is Brian Stout, a junior who also has been a two-year regular on the back wall.

“Like the offensive side of the game, we need to be organized here, too,” Morawiecki said. “Simply put, we want to be difficult to play against. If we do that, good things will follow.”

Of the two returning goalies, only junior Eric Feil (who played in seven games in 2010), has college experience. He will battle with soph Derrick Mora in what is considered an open competition for the starting job. “Eric has good height (6-1) and seems to have good reflexes,” Morawiecki said after a first look-see at the duo. “Derrick is a very athletic (he was a member of the Piper track team) and eager. I have no pre-set plan here. Like with the other spots on the team, both guys start off even.”

With just two weeks of preparation, the Pipers start with two tough foes. HU will host western powers Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth August 31-September 1 in a weekend tournament at Paterson Field. (Augsburg will play at 1 p.m. both days.)  The Washington based pair shared the Northwest Conference regular season championship last year. PLU went on to play in the NCAA D-III tournament and is rated No. 25 in the first NSCAA poll of 2012. Morawiecki views this rugged start as a way to get his team ready for the rigors of MIAC play.

“This is a tough league,” he said. “It always has been. In my senior year, three MIAC teams made the NCAA tournament. There is no room to take a day off.”

Although he is still getting to know his players, Morawiecki has already noticed one very positive sign about the 2012 Pipers. “They understand that the current margin of error is slim,” he said. “But they’re all ears. They’re hungry to learn how to make 4-11 turn into 11-4. That’s a great starting point.”

Hamline continues a season-opening four game homestand next week with games against North Central (September 4) and Minnesota-Morris (September 8). The MIAC opener is September 12 at Concordia.