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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Life after Ben Premo: the men’s soccer team looks forward

Published: September 4, 2009
Section: Sports

ATTACKING THE BALL: Alexander Farr ‘12 playing in a game against WPI last year.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot Archives</i>

ATTACKING THE BALL: Alexander Farr ‘12 playing in a game against WPI last year.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot Archives

It’s not every day that a player comes along who will end up in the record books as one of the all-time leading scorers for your team. It certainly isn’t every rookie who can put up ten goals and four assists in a season. Nor could it be expected that the same rookie would go on to score 16 goals and register ten assists in his sophomore year. Then again, not every player can be Ben Premo ’09.

Premo graduated in May as the fifth highest scorer in the history of Brandeis men’s soccer with 38 goals, 22 assists, and 98 points. Despite those impressive numbers, the team did not do as well as Coach Michael Coven would have hoped. “Everybody relied on him too much,” he said. As a result they became, “a one man team.”

While every team struggles to adapt to the changes that inevitably come every year, losing a player like Premo is an especially big hit for the soccer team. With that said, however, the “one man team” couldn’t do the job alone. Other teams began to recognize him on the field and double-team him, leaving Brandeis out of options. In the 2007 season, Premo’s third on the team, he scored only two goals and had five assists. “We hadn’t developed alternatives,” Coven told The Hoot.

Keeping in mind some of the mistakes of the past, Coven and Assistant Coach Gabe Margolis are looking forward to what they hope will be a brighter future. “We have a much more balanced attack this year,” Margolis said.

That balanced attack comes from returning players stepping up to their roles as well as the first-year players acting as “a cohesive unit,” Coven explained. In addition to the new faces on the team, there is also midfielder Steve Keuchkarian ’11 who has rejoined the team after taking time off last season. His return could certainly help the Judges and gives them more options on the field.

One player many have been waiting for is midfielder Jaime Batista ’10. Batista’s career at Brandeis has been plagued with injuries and illness, playing only seven games his rookie year, five his sophomore year, and fifteen last year. Provided he can stay healthy, both coaches expect him and Corey Bradley ’10 to “carry the burden” this season.

Coven’s game plan was thrown off by the recent illness of goalkeeper Taylor Bracken ’10. A perforated ulcer in his bowel has sidelined Bracken and may force him to take the semester off from Brandeis. Everyone on the team is happy Bracken has made it through the worst of it and will recover, but his presence will certainly be missed this fall. “It was a real dogfight between him and [Matt] Lynch [’11] for the starting goal spot,” Coach Coven told The Hoot. “The competition made them push harder.”

Lynch will be the starting goalkeeper this season and both coaches have the utmost confidence in his abilities to guard the net. Blake Minchkoff ’13 will serve as backup goalkeeper. Despite his inexperience, both Coven and Margolis expect he will pick things up quickly. “All freshmen are inexperienced playing at this level,” Margolis said.

The Judges did catch one lucky break this season, though: a late start. The men play their first game this weekend at Wheaton College in the Adidas Kick-Off Classic. This extra time has allowed the team to work out some kinks, and has also given some players time to recover from minor injuries. Mike Silberstein ’10 is coming back from reconstructive knee surgery and David McCoy ’12, the starting center back, is returning from a sprained groin. The late start is “really lucky,” according to Coach Margolis.

Both coaches are cautiously optimistic that this season will produce better results than those in recent history. While the team might still be, “a work in progress,” the groundwork has been laid for a successful team capable of bringing the Judges farther than they did in the days of Premo.

“Come out and support us,” Coven said. “There are a lot of night games.”

The men will play their first home game Wednesday Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.