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Great expectations for the Huskies

In 2012, the men’s soccer team captured its first-ever conference championship and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade before bowing out in the second round.

“Our expectations are even higher this season,” said tri-captain Dante Marini, a 5-foot-3-inch midfielder who was named to the pre-season All-Colonial Athletic Association team. “Our goal is to make an even bigger statement.”

The red and black will set out to back up their rhetoric with strong play in the regular season opener next Friday at the John Rennie / Nike Invitational in Durham, N.C. After the two-game tournament, the Huskies will return home for a pair of games at Parsons Field in Brookline, Mass., where they hold a 16-game unbeaten streak.

The team must overcome the loss of two former stars, both of whom concluded their Northeastern careers last year: Oliver Blum, a goalkeeper who led the conference in both goals against average and save percentage last season, and Don Anding, an offensive juggernaut who accounted for almost half of the team’s tallies.

If preseason play is any indication, Northeastern should not have to worry about offensive production. In the first five minutes of the first exhibition game of the year, the Huskies scored three goals against Boston College, a strong defensive club that relinquished just 22 tallies all of last season.

Head coach Brian Ainscough, who was named last season’s CAA Co-Coach of the Year, is less concerned about offensive output than with the team’s ability to duplicate last season’s stat-defying defensive performance. In 21 games, the Huskies allowed only 16 goals and pitched 10 shutouts.

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The Huskies have been picked the win the Colonial Athletic Association championship for the second consecutive season.

Blum’s departure opened up a position for a starting goalkeeper, of which there are three on the current roster. Redshirt junior Jacob Aduama injured his back in preseason workouts, turning a three-way competition into a battle between redshirt freshman Maximillian Brown and sophomore Dylan Farber, who posted a 2-1-1 record last season.

“Both players are doing a really good job,” said Ainscough. “I’m confident someone will step up and win the spot.”

He feels the same way about the freshman class, several members of which have a good chance of cracking the starting lineup. Christian McKenna, for example, a forward from Scotland, has impressed Ainscough with his speed and innate goal-scoring ability. “He has a great feel for the game and a knack for scoring goals,” Ainscough said of the 5-foot-8-inch, 147-pound Scottish star. “He’s slight of frame but very lively around the box.”

Marini echoed his coach’s sentiments, praising the newcomers for their soccer IQ. “They’re all smart guys and they know the game,” he said. “They’ve jumped right in and became part of the team.”