DETROIT, Mich. -- Last season, head coach Matt Johnson and the Mustangs provided plenty of memories thanks to thrilling overtime victories and the play of 2012 senior Jordan Berry. With Berry gone and 2012 in the rearview mirror, the 2013 cast of Mustangs boasts a heavy dose of new and returning talent that have their sights set on improving upon last year's mark of 8-9-3 overall and 5-2-3 in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC).
Opposing coaches looking at Marygrove's 2013 roster will breathe a sigh of relief with Jordan Berry no longer listed as wearing number 12 for the Mustangs. Last season, Berry amassed 23 goals to go along with three assists for a 49-point season. The 23-goal total was good for fifth overall in the NAIA as Berry went on to be named First Team All-WHAC. In 71 career games, Berry sent home an impressive 70 goals – a career scoring mark that may not be eclipsed for years to come for Marygrove Soccer.
REINFORCED AND READY
Despite losing Berry, Johnson returns a potent group of attackers that are ready to strike this season. Senior forward Jad El-Zein (Tyre, Lebanon/Fordson) leads a deep set of scorers that will look to push the pace and pressure the opposition. The senior knocked in three goals and was credited with three assists in 2012. El-Zein will be flanked by Abdoulie Jallow (Bansang, The Gambia/Rust), winner of the 2012 WHAC Newcomer of the Year after a nine-goal, eight-assist campaign. Jallow's eight assists led the team while his nine goals were second only to Berry. Other key attackers up front and in the midfield include Haider Alzayadi (Simawa, Iraq/Wayne State), Gonzalo Caceres (Detroit, Mich./Southwestern), Mamadou Diallo (Detroit, Mich./Southwestern), and Brandon Herber (St. Clair Shores, Mich./Macomb CC).
"We have a talented group of attackers returning this season," said Johnson. "Each guy brings us a different look and we are hopeful that will transition into many scoring chances this season. Abdoulie [Jallow] and Jad [El-Zein] are just two of a number of guys I expect to have solid seasons for us up front."
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Johnson will look for his defense to take another step forward in 2013. All starters and key reserves return to make up a battle-tested backline after helping lead the Mustangs to a WHAC semifinal appearance last season. Ahmed Almosawi (Dearborn, Mich./American Muslim Academy), Ysen Dalipi (Dearborn Heights, Mich./Crestwood), Ali El Habhab (Saida, Lebanon/Dearborn), Moussa Diallo (Conakry, Guinea/Fordson), and Chad Lane (St. Clair Shores, Mich./Lakeview) highlight of few of the seasoned returning defenders. Alzayadi and Alex Cabildo (Westland, Mich./John Glenn) will help as defensive mids, while newcomers Madalin Pop (Marghita, Romania/John Glenn) and Khalid Suleiman (Tulkarm, Palestine/Madonna) will add depth to a well-rounded group.
"Our defense remains intact and could be the strength of our team with continued hard work," added Johnson. "Our backline and defensive mids are continuing to develop good chemistry after playing through a difficult schedule last season."
The Mustangs will have a new keeper this season after 2012 starter Christian Bryant transferred to The Master's College in California. Derek Barton (Flushing, Mich./Mott CC) and Ryan Plonka (St. Clair Shores, Mich./Macomb CC) are two of the keepers that look to line up in between the posts this season.
The 2012 schedule -- well-known for being the most difficult in the brief history of the program -- will be unseeded in that regard once the Mustangs hit the pitch in 2013. Difficult conference road matches, and tough road tilts at NAIA perennial power Lindsey Wilson College and reigning NCAA Division II national championship runner-up, Saginaw Valley State University, will make up an unforgiving slate of games this season.
WHAC: TAKE TWO
The Mustangs took the WHAC by storm finishing 5-2-3 at the conclusion of their first regular season in the heralded conference. The five-win mark, including a win against the WHAC's top seed Cornerstone University, landed the Mustangs the fifth seed heading into the conference tournament. This year's squad is hopeful to build off last year's success and take another step forward in 2013.
"Without a doubt this season will be a bit different for our team," relayed Johnson of the impending WHAC schedule. "Last year, we were able to sneak up on a few teams. The same cannot be said about this year as we will have teams ready to play us every time we step onto the pitch."
All home matches will feature live audio and live stats via Stretch Internet. You can listen live when the Mustangs open the 2013 season at home Saturday, August 24, versus Taylor Unviersity (Ind.) at 3:00 p.m. In addition to the home coverage, MarygroveMustangs.com and our social media channels will link any live feed offered by one of the Mustangs' opponents this season. GET CONNECTED WITH THE MUSTANGS: Facebook | Twitter | Score Updates & News Alerts