"Expectations are high," Stanford coach Bret Simon said. "Maturity and comfort level are just as important as having the team skills. Two years ago we lost a lot of one-goal games. Last year we won a lot of one-goal games. We've talked a lot about understanding, and displaying, maturity."
This year Pac-10 coaches voted Stanford (4-4-2, 12-6-2 last season) to finish second in conference play, which would be a step up from last year's third-place finish.
Senior midfielder Bobby Warshaw, who led the team with six goals, four of them game winners, and 13 points last year, will likely be the face of Stanford men's soccer this year. He's on the watch list for the Hermann Trophy and the Lowe's Senior Class award for his sport.
"I'm just the team representative for the team doing well," he said. "I'm not on the billboard unless the team does well."
The reference is to the billboard which looms over on the El Camino Real from the intersection of Galvez and the Embarcadero, which promotes most of Stanford's fall sports.
He's the first to explain, however, that individual awards are a result of good team results and that nothing happens on a soccer field without your teammates.
"We sat in a room together on the first night we were here," Warsaw said. "We talked about team goals and winning the championship. That was the last time we'll discuss it. From day one it's about working hard and taking responsibility."
Warsaw had a whirlwind summer, training with a pair of MSL teams and with a professional team in Norway. He's not the only one who took it upon themselves to continue developing skills at a high level. Senior forward Daniel Leon, for example, took training from an English Premiere League team.
The Cardinal qualified for its first NCAA tournament in eight years last season, reaching the quarterfinals before falling to top-ranked Akron.
"Last year we put in the work and reached the Sweet Sixteen," Warsaw said. "Now we've got to put in the work that will take us to the Final Four. We have to raise the bar. The biggest thing wasn't talent, it was the preparation. You put in the hard work Monday through Thursday. Maybe in previous years we didn't train like we should have."
With nine of its top 10 scorers back from last year, including Warsaw, Leon and seniors Dominique Yahyavi, Cameron Lamming and Ryan Thomas, creating offensive opportunities should be just fine.
In fact the Cardinal returns plenty of depth at just about every position, including fifth-year senior midfielder Thiago Sa Freire, who was granted a medical exception, and senior Shaun Culver, who will shore up the defense.
The one problem area could be at goalkeeper, where Simon will have to replace four-year starter John Moore.
The good news is there are four quality candidates. Unfortunately none of them have had any experience.
"We've been spoiled," Simon said. "We had a guy who was good for a lot of years. It's early in the process but so far I've seen improvement from all four guys."
The competition is between redshirt freshmen Jason Dodson and Galen Perkins and true freshmen Prescott Langholz and Drew Hutchins.
Their first opportunity comes Sunday when Stanford hosts Sonoma State in an exhibition match at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, junior midfielders Garrett Gunther, Adoni Levine, Taylor Amman, Alexander Binnie and Clayton Holz give Stanford experience in the middle of the field. Other juniors include defender Tommy Ryan, forward Cullen Wilson, and defender Ben Grafentin.
Sophomore forward Adam Jahn was one of the top freshmen in the country last year. Of his team-high 44 shots, an incredible 23 were on goal. He's joined by sophomore Hunter Groskie. They both started all 20 matches for the Cardinal last year, with Warsaw and Thomas.
Sophomore Eric Anderson appeared in 15 games last season, while fellow sophomore Dersu Abolfathi started three and played in all 20.
The freshmen class includes Matt Taylor, whose older sister plays for the women's team, Adrian Berg, JJ Koval, Jack Ryan, Bobby Edwaqrds, Austin Meyer, Tyler Conklin and Simon Basilico.
Stanford opens the regular season at Vermont on Sept. 1.
This story contains 770 words.
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