Webster men’s soccer team shoots for bounce-back season

Kyle Leonard, Webstr University men's soccer
Kyle Leonard strikes the ball during one of the men's soccer practices at the Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park. PHOTO BY VICTORIA CASWELL/The Journal

Coach Marty Todt starts his 24th season as Webster University’s men’s soccer coach this fall. With only six returning starters from last year, he will rely heavily on a talented group of freshmen to fight for the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship this season.
“If one thing is positive about this year, it’s the incoming freshmen,” Todt said. “They are very good athletes and knowledgeable. The (eight) coming in will make a difference.”
Todt said the freshmen are creating competition at several positions. He even thinks his senior goalie, Alex Cupp, could be spelled from time to time.
“Cupp is a senior and a steady player for us, but he will get competition from freshman keeper Brian Woodward,” Todt said. “Woodward is a very good goalie in his own right.”
Another freshman expected to get a lot of playing time is Jeff Wallner. He attended Eureka High School and played center midfield as a senior. At Webster, he finds himself in new territory.
“Coach has been putting me with the first group, so I know he thinks highly of me,” Wallner said. “But I am playing defense for the first time in my life, so it’s a learning process.”
Wallner chose to attend Webster because it was close to his home and he knows sophomore midfielder Carlos Espinosa, who also played at Eureka.
“Every day we are getting better,” Wallner said. “I come out and do the best I can and work my butt off.”
Todt said the mix of youth and upperclassmen is creating good chemistry. He said he is impressed with the leadership of his co-captains.
“Junior Kyle Leonard, junior Josh Sellmeyer and senior Shea Vogt did a great job in the offseason,” Todt said. “In the spring, they led the team through open kicks and the Premier League at the Soccer Park.”
The workouts and games have brought the team together and helped them get in shape to start the season.
“We are definitely more fit coming into the season,” Leonard said. “The Premier League really helped us. I and the other two captains organized practices and did the same drills as coach would have run.”
Webster had an overall record of 10-6-3 last season. The Gorloks finished fourth in the SLIAC last year and hope to improve on their 5-2-1 conference record.
They return conference co-player of the year Clint Carder, a junior forward who will likely play a big role in helping Webster in its bid for the championship. Last season, Carder led the SLIAC in goals scored with 15.
Todt said seniors Bryan Enger and Dominic DeVasto have looked good thus far, and Todt wants all four of his seniors to step up this season and mentor the younger players.
This season, the SLIAC coaches picked Webster to finish third in the preseason poll. Two-time defending champion Greenville College was picked to finish first, while Fontbonne University was chosen a distant second.
“It’s a marathon — not a sprint — to win the SLIAC,” Greenville coach Brian McMahon said. “There is so much parity, and the conference is deep this year.”
The Gorloks open the season against Washington University on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Soccer Park. WashU is ranked No. 19 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll.
“We are jumping into the frying pan right away,” Todt said. “You don’t gain anything from playing lesser teams. We play the top teams.”
Last year, Webster lost to WashU 7-0, and the Bears return most of their key players from a year ago.
“The WashU game is going to be tough,” Leonard said. “It is a great opportunity to play one of the top teams in the nation and see how we measure up.

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