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First-year head coach ushers in new era for La Salle

Previewing La Salle’s 2016 season

Garrett Keys fighting off a West Chester player in a spring exhibition match
Matt Ralph

Record in 2015: 6-10-2 overall, 2-5-1 Atlantic 10
Head Coach: Rob Irvine (first year)
Key Losses: Andrew Connors and Joe Farrell
Key Returners: Forwards Mike Liska and Joe Hansen, midfielder/forward Matt Robinson, defenders Tony Daniele and Garrett Keys and goalkeepers Mike Kirk and Cameron Keys
Key Additions: Defenders Joe Bianco and Bill McCarthy, midfielder Dom Fullan and forward Zach Senft
MLS Academy Players: Garrett Keys and Cameron Keys (Philadelphia Union) and Mike Liska (New York Red Bulls)
Key Matches: Loyola away (Aug. 26), Drexel home (Aug. 30), Rider home (Sept. 2), UMBC home (Sept. 24), Saint Louis home (Oct. 1), Dayton home (Oct. 19)

Head coach Rob Irvine is less than a month into his new job and is already faced with the daunting task of trying to turn around a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2012.

He’ll have to do that without two of the leading offensive weapons from a year ago in Andrew Connors and Joe Farrell, who accounted for nearly half of the team’s goals last season.

What Irvine does have is experience on the defensive end with fifth-year senior goalkeeper Mike Kirk fresh off a PDL semifinal run with the Ocean City Nor’easters (Union Academy grad Cameron Keys is also waiting in the wings) and returning defenders Tony Daniele and Garrett Keys, a 2015 Union Academy grad.

Players like senior forward Conor Nichols and juniors Sixtus Akinlosotu, Astral Edwards and Matt Robinson, who missed all of last season, will be needed to contribute as well.

Irvine took over the program in late July after long-time head coach Pat Farrell announced he would not be returning for what would have been his 30th season at the helm.

While he certainly has work to do, Irvine knows what it takes to turn a team around, taking a Division III Kean University program from last place in the conference to two winning seasons in 2014 and 2015.

The road will not be easy with an opening match in Baltimore County against a very talented Loyola team on August 26 and a conference schedule that includes perennial contenders on the national stage in Saint Louis and Dayton.