"We just finished up yesterday with the second of our two preseason exhibitions and, actually, between Loyola and a game yesterday, I thought we've done quite well. We've added seven freshmen and all of them have done very well. I think one of the things we noticed through the preseason is that we're going to be a deeper team. We're going to be a more talented team and we should be a much better team overall. I think that will show through the course of the season.
"This weekend, we open up against Evansville and Dayton. Both of these teams are teams that are important for us to beat, because in the big picture, in the sport of soccer, in terms of the RPI and all that, these guys are going to be in a position similar to where we should be at the end of the year. When it all comes down to it, at the end of the year, these are the teams that we're looking at to be sure to beat in that 50 to 100 RPI type of situation.
"So, certainly, Evansville traditionally is a very strong team. They've got a new coach there. He's been there a couple of years and he's very good. They've got some good young players, so they're going to be a good team for us to start out with. Dayton, the past two years, has been very solid. In fact, last year, I thought they should have been in the tournament and were omitted. We actually owe them one because we had them down 2-0 (9/19/04) there and squandered it away late and lost 3-2. So I know a lot of our seniors are looking forward to that one on Sunday for sure."
Jeff, you mentioned how many freshmen you've got. You've also got quite a few seniors. Is it tough mixing those two since you don't have a whole lot of sophomore, juniors in between them that are . . .
"Well, just to give you a breakdown, we have 19 of 24 are freshmen and sophomores. The five seniors are solid players and will certainly contribute, throughout the course of the season. You know, since I got here, one of our goals was to get on the recruiting trails and bring in some good players. I think we did that in the first year with that group of 12 and I think we've done it again with this group of five.
"In looking at these past two games, with some of the things that we've added, we're going to be much, much deeper in midfield. I mean, if we play with five, there's seven or eight that are going to be competing for those spots. And I'd say we could probably go 14 or 15 deep all over the field. So that's a good thing for us, for sure."
Jeff, do you like the direction your program's headed now, going into your third year?
"I do. I do. I think that first class was real important, as you all know, for us to get back to the roots of Wisconsin and I thought we did that. This last class, I thought we reached regionally and got some very good players, top regional team kids, guys who had been at some of the Youth National Teams as young players. So I like where it's going, you know, and, certainly, the recruiting has gone well thus far. Certainly, we will know more in the next couple months, but, I'm very encouraged with the way things are going for sure."
As, in his second year here, what kind of expectations do you have for Jed Hohlbein, a guy who I know can score quite a few goals for you?
"Yeah, you know, last year, I thought Jed had a great September. I thought he kind of cooled off a little bit the second half of the season. I think for Jed – he's got to put it together over the course of the season. He's certainly capable of putting the ball in the net and we've got some players who are going to give him better balls and better service and all that. So, he should be the beneficiary of some of that this season and he is capable of it. I think it's just a matter of bringing that consistency over the course of the season."
Jeff, are you going to have pretty much the same kind of goalkeeping situation you said you did last year, same thing . . .
"Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we didn't lose anybody. You know, Eric Hanson is the senior captain, returning starter and I thought he played very well last year. I thought he should have been first team All-Big Ten instead of second team. I just think he's one of the top keepers out there."
Is that one of the kind of things you build around? On a team, obviously, in soccer, you know, it's your last line, but as a senior . . .
"Yeah, last year was interesting because you had Eric who was a junior, and a captain, and all that. And then you had four freshmen in front of him, so we had our moments last year. Certainly, this year, with those guys getting a year under their belt and Eric being a senior it should be much more solid."
And what goals have you set for this year? Are they modest or are you reaching for . . .
"Well, I don't know if you've seen our team poster yet, but the senior class came up with a great theme ("Going to the Big Dance"), and, you know, I don't think getting to the tournament is out of the question. We're going to be a pretty exciting team this year. I really like this team. You know, we've got some very skilled kids. Our athleticism has been improved and I think our goal-scoring ability has been much improved, too.
I don't think we're going to be a team where our opponent can come in and say, hey, let's shut down Jed Hohlbein or Nick Van Sicklen and win the game. I think we've got four, five, six guys who can put the ball in the net, which is very nice. So, you know, I think we're certainly capable of getting there this year. The youth could show itself, over time, but I don't like to use that as an excuse. I think our talent is much better this year. I think we're much deeper and I think that should help us along the way."
Is there anyone coming in you expect to make an immediate impact this year?
"Well, in the first two games, we stared three freshmen, so, and I would anticipate those three starting at the beginning of the season this weekend too."
It looks like the Preseason Big Ten Coaches' Poll has you pegged right in the middle of the Big Ten. Is that about right?
"Five minutes ago, it was the first time I saw that and last year, I think we were sixth, so, you know, I think some people might be noticing some of the things we're doing, which is good. But, again, it's an opinion poll to me. You know, I'd rather be higher come, Nov. 1. I think right now, it's just guesswork. So it's nice to see that maybe some people are taking notice and giving us that respect, but, you know, for us, I think we're going to be shooting a little bit higher than that even."
Monday Press Conference: Jeff Rohrman
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