Clustah Preview: Scharf Expects A Season of Intense Competition

It’s fall term and that can only mean one thing: Cluster Soccer. Yes, the season will soon be in full swing, and jersey-clad ruffians will be dashing to and fro across the verdant lawns of Far Siberia. Of course some of these teams will have better chances than others to bring home the cluster cup. So without further ado here is the 2003 Cluster Soccer rundown. Abbot: Although my opinion on this greatest of clusters is obviously slightly suspect, mainly due to my four years “south of the Chapel”, I think I can objectively say that Abbot will field a strong side this year. With an especially strong midfield powered by Cluster President Sam DuPont, Abbot stands a fair chance. A defensive diamond with Alex Bois ’05 at its rear looks to be strong but maybe not strong enough to deal with the offensive power of some of the other stacked clusters. On the offensive end of the field, would-be JV starter Arnaud “The D is Silent” Lamotte ’05 will be adding valuable hitting power to Abbot’s offensive line. Eric Mitzenmacher ’04, a returning cluster veteran, will also be valuable on offense, as will Jen Evans ’04 formerly of Girls JV1. Strong in all three sectors of the field, with a few surprise rookie stars to watch out for and backed by Cluster Veteran goalie, Neville Williams ’05, Abbot will be a definite force this season. Flagstaff: Flagstaff this year is clearly the team to beat. Stacked with stars from the ranks of “real soccer” and even containing a PG superstar, Flagstaff looks strong, almost too strong. With arguably Cluster Soccer’s best keeper in the form of Harry Goldstein ’05, a possible Varsity player, FLG will certainly have an outstanding goalie to fall back on. As if that were not enough, Mike Auld ’04 leads what can only be described as a near-impenetrable defense. Flagstaff is also clearly not lacking offensively. With cluster superstars Meade Curtis ’04 and Russel Dykema ’04, who played on JV as a Lower, Funstaff veteran Jen Graham ’04, funny-looking forward Mac King ’05, and an outstanding supporting cast of enthusiastic players, FLG will have no trouble finding the back of the net. Rounding out Flagstaff’s line-up is an enigmatic post-graduate known only as “Matt the PG.” If Flagstaff has one weakness: overconfidence. Flagstaffer Livy Coe ’04 summed up FLG’s chances by saying, “We will win. If we don’t win we’ll be sorely disappointed.” Pine Knoll: Perhaps the most commonly asked question in the various discussions about the upcoming cluster season is: Can the Knollers pull off the repeat? Frankly, I am inclined to say yes. Although obviously hurt by the departure of one of Cluster Soccer’s all-time greats, Simon Hawkins ’03, Jisung “Hit the Ji Spot” Park ’04 and company have put together a strong side which will be a force with which to be reckoned. Park himself is set to start as forward, and anyone who has seen this Korean superstar play knows that he is probably one of the strongest players in Cluster this year. Backing up Park is new senior Johannes Knuth ’04, a starting forward who is a cross between the stopping power of the Berlin Wall and the striking power of a tank. With a strong defensive squad led by Troutman the Younger ’04, PKN’s resident pimp Homan “Ho Man” Lee, and a goalie spot to be held by Wing-Kit “The Great Wall of China” Chu ’04, PKN looks to have a powerful backfield as well. Of course, one cannot forget the powerful Stimson Senior Trifecta of April Warren ’04, Ali Schouten ’04, and Malika Felix ’04. In short, the Knoll should be one of stronger sides of this year, probably in the top three. West Quad North: Much to the dismay of leader Sam Levenback ’04, this year’s North squad appears as if it will be unable to avenge North’s final-spot loss to South last year by one point. With an almost complete turnover in players, and without such phenoms as Rashid Galadanci and Trautman the Elder, both class of ’03, it seems that North will fall into the lower ranks of teams this year. Still, North’s side is far from weak. Levenback and Aaron Bardo ’04 lead a respectable offense. They are backed by a decent midfield led by veteran Alex King ’05. Rich Besen ’04 leads an above average defense, which should prove to be a challenge for even the most offensively minded teams. North’s greatest weakness is, as it has always been, a severe lack of net-minding skills. If anything, North has room to grow, and if they pull things together they might just displace one of the aforementioned teams. West Quad South: Despite fielding some of the best varsity athletes this school has to offer, the WQS cluster team is lacking in experience. They do, however, have some standouts. With strikers John Holkins ’04 and Annie Myers ’04 leading a passable attack, and Ian Hafkenschiel ’04 in the midfield, they still stand a chance in the competition. This year’s sleeper picks for WQS look to be Abhi Eswarappa ’04 and Arsalaan Ahmed ’04, at starting middie, Victor Miller ’05, a relative brick wall at sweeper, and Grant Yoshitsu ’05, who barrels through defenses. On defense, ex-Cross Country runner Clem Wood ’04 should add some speed and endurance to the stopper position in a backfield that includes the like of Vineel Kankanala ’04. At this point, it is absolutely impossible to form any conclusions about Cluster soccer. Cuts are just now being made made, scrub teams are being formed, and the fortunes and fates of the various clusters rise and fall. If I had to call the finals now, I’d predict PKN-ABB, or PKN-FLG. Yet, it is worth remembering that last year ABB went 6-0 in preseason, yet came dead last out of the real clusters by the end of the season, and PKN showed a very weak 1-5 preseason record yet ended up winning it all. Flagstaff looks strong this year, but can this team of superstars learn to play together and share the glory, or will they self-destruct? South is a formless void at the moment, but will some incredible squad emerge from the void and take it all? It is certainly possible. To be quite frank, anyone can win, anyone can lose, and that is what makes Clustah great.