Pioneers Welcome Saint Peter's for Tonight's Season Opener

Marcelo Simoes (8) and Edwin Victor (18) return to the SHU midfield.
Marcelo Simoes (8) and Edwin Victor (18) return to the SHU midfield.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. - The Sacred Heart University men's soccer team's 2011 season gets underway under the lights of Campus Field as Saint Peter's comes to town for a 7:00 pm contest.  The Pioneers aim to build on the success of an 11-6-2 campaign in 2010, which saw them earn the number two seed in the Northeast Conference Tournament.  Following tonight's contest, Sacred Heart hits the road for four straight, started with a 3:00 pm tilt at Columbia on Sunday.

About the Pioneers... SHU returns eight starters from last year's lineup, including senior goalkeeper Alex Fait (Ottawa, Ont.). Fait played every minute in net as a sophomore and was the Pioneer starter until late season surgery put him on the bench. Between the pipes, he posted a 1.02 GAA and .750 save percentage in 15 starts. Junior Marcello Castro (Parana, Brazil) and sophomore Omer Levy (Yasuf, Israel) will captain the 2011 squad from the backline. Castro is the leading returning scorer after recoring 12 points, on five goals and two assists.

Scouting the Peacocks... Saint Peter's comes into this evening's game 0-1 on the season, following a 1-0 season opening loss at Monmouth. Junior goalie Carlos Suarez stopped 10 shots as his Peacocks were outshot 24-0 for the game. Saint Peter's is coming off a 2010 MAAC Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance, a 6-2 loss at Providence, a year ago. Overall, the Peacocks finished 13-6-1 behind returning senior midfielder Harry Newman, who score eight goals and dished out six assists for 22 total points. Suarez won out the starting spot midway through last year and recorded 48 saves and a 1.27 GAA.

2010 in Review... The Pioneers opened last season 4-0 and received votes in the national NSCAA poll for the first time in program history. In the regular season, SHU played eventual NEC champion and #10 Monmouth to a scoreless tie on the road. In the NEC Tournament semifinals, Sacred Heart trailed Saint Francis (PA), 1-0, until Patrick Daka knotted the game in the 76th minute before falling 2-1 in overtime. At season's end, Castro was named the NEC Defensive Player of the Year and a Third Team All-American. Head coach Joe Barroso earned the league's Coach of the Year award, while junior midfielder Edwin Victor (Bridgeport, Conn.) was honored as an All-NEC Second Team selection.

Scouting the Lions... Columbia will be in Fairfield to kick off the season at Fairfield University Friday at 7:00 pm, prior to hosting Sacred Heart, Sunday afternoon.  The Lions completed last season 6-8-3 overall and 2-3-2 in the Ivy League.  Sophomore Henning Sauerbier led the unit in scoring with four goals and two assists in his rookie season.  Last September, Sacred Heart defeated Columbia at Campus Field, 2-1.  Senior midfielder Francois Anderson scored early for the Lions, but his goal was soon erased by Levy's first career goal.  In the first minute of the second half, SHU freshman Gustav Granqvist headed in a corner kick to give the Pioneers a lead they would never relinquish.

Check out the Big Red Report for a complete preview of the 2011 men's and women's soccer seasons.