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.”