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
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
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.