University of Pittsburgh Bradford
2013 Pitt-Bradford men's soccer preview
Adam Forster save
Senior Adam Forster

The Pitt-Bradford men's soccer team will feature several new faces when it takes the field Friday for its season-opener at the Keuka Lakefront Classic.

Pitt-Bradford will meet the host school Friday and square off against Wells Saturday.

The Panthers will be comprised mostly of freshmen, an infusion of young talent that hopes to mesh with the nine returners from the 2012 squad.

Seventh-year head Darek Panol sees his team as a puzzle that still needs to be put together.

"I'm really excited about this year," Panol said. "We have a lot of talent, but we have a lot of work ahead of us getting everyone on the same page."

Chemistry has been a focus during preseason practices, and the team has adopted the mantra, "one breath, one mind and one spirit."

Panol anticipates some ups and downs with such a young squad, but hopes by the start of conference play the younger players will have a greater role and impact.

While that develops, Pitt-Bradford will rely on its strong defensive presence in senior goalkeeper Adam Forster. The second-team all-AMCC performer ranked in the top 10 nationally in total saves and saves per game in 2012, and is arguably one of the top netminders returning in the league.

Senior Nick Gier and juniors Angel Achar-a Bradford native-and Seth Levy will anchor the back line in front of Forster. Sophomore Colton Bly, another Bradford High product, will transition to more a defensive role this season.

The defense allowed an average of 2.29 goals per game a year ago, a number the Panthers hope to shrink in 2013.

A host of newcomers will also compete for playing time in freshmen Bryan McCoy, Amadou Sow, Nathaniel Truett, Daniel Leroy, James Lukachinsky and Nathan Fox.

Freshmen Colin Frownfelter, Josh Sourbeer and Adam Smeltzer will serve as Forster's understudy in hopes of earning the starting role for 2014.

The midfield will be anchored by senior Nicholas Walker and sophomores Josiah Blick and Brian Bao. Blick led the team in goals scored as a freshman, and Bao chipped in with two scores. Their development offensively will be vital to the Panthers' success.

Freshmen Paul Harris, James Jobczynski, Jaylen Vails, Alan Rabold and Alessandro Ortiz will provide depth on the middle line.

Junior Jeler Mendez and freshman Samuel Franchi are the only forwards listed on the roster as the Panthers will use the non-conference slate to build up its offensive attack.

Panol's early season goal is gaining experience for his younger players.

"We will have a lot of ups and downs this year due to our inexperience, but hopefully we will be able to get our younger players on the field early on in the season to prepare them for the conference play," Panol said.

The schedule progresses in difficulty leading into AMCC play. Pitt-Bradford was picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches' poll after failing to qualify for the conference tournament last year, something it hopes to atone for in 2013.

While the team is young, inexperience can be an advantage. Expect the Panthers to play with a fearless bravado until they develop their identity. Once they do, this group has the potential to outperform last year's squad, a goal any team sets.