The University of Richmond men's soccer team has entered its season with a revamped lineup after preseason injuries forced the team to start a freshman goalkeeper and replace its defensive line.
Grant Schonberg started during the season opener against Lehigh University after the original starting goalie, Brock Tomlinson, a transfer from Southern Methodist University, suffered a head injury, assistant coach Matt O'Toole said.
The line-up changes meant players were in unfamiliar roles, and a lack of communication among them contributed to a 6-1 loss against Leigh, O'Toole said.
"We're definitely a quiet team," Schonberg said. "It's gotten much better throughout the preseason."
The team is still adjusting to a new style of play. The players are still getting comfortable with each other and their roles, O'Toole said.
"What we're focusing on right now is to win our match-ups," O'Toole said. "Throughout the game you have a bunch of individual battles, and our focus is to win those, and that did not happen at Lehigh."
The Spiders added a new coach to the staff, and he has brought optimism to the team. Mark Murphy, goalkeeper for the Richmond Kickers, has become the goalkeeper coach.
"It's a great change for our guys to work with someone different and have his coaching techniques," O'Toole said. "He's going to bring a wealth of knowledge for our guys."
Murphy played professionally in the Czech Republic Premier League and now is in the goal for the Kickers and serves as their goalkeeper director, O'Toole said.
"He puts us through a good workout every time we train with him so he's making us better," Schonberg said. Murphy's intensity is one of the best aspects of his coaching, Schonberg said.
"Our practices are so much more intense that when it comes time for the games we know what to expect," Schonberg said.
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Murphy is working hard to help Schonberg improve certain aspects of his game.
"I'm not exactly the biggest of goalkeepers, so we've been working on crosses and really trying to get that down," he said.
Position players are also happy with their new coach.
"He brings that experience that you can trust," Ben Brewster, freshmen forward, said.
Freshman halfback John Twomey said, "He definitely knows what he's talking about."
Now, the team is looking to improve as it heads to Pittsburgh to face Lafayette College and Marshall University in the Duquesne University Invitational. The Dusquense tournament is a sister tournament with the Spiders, which means Duquesne will come to Richmond next year for the UR Nike Challenge Cup, O'Toole said.
The team will face Lafayette College (1-2-1) on Sept. 12. The Leopards beat No. 15 West Virginia on Aug. 29 in Morgantown, W.Va.
"They are traditionally a disciplined team, pretty athletic," O'Toole said.
Lafayette was picked to finish fourth in the Patriot League's preseason poll of coaches and athletic directors, according to the league's Web site.
The Spiders will continue the tournament on Sept. 13 against Marshall University. The Herd (0-2) lost in the Conference USA semifinal last year, O'Toole said.
"They are usually pretty technical," he said. "It should be a good test, just like Lafayette, for our guys."
Twomey expects success if the team can come together as a unit.
"If we can play like that where the sum is greater than the parts, I think we can do some good things," he said.
Contact reporter Stephen Utz at email@example.com
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