DETROIT — The Titans boast a talented midfield field group that adds a scoring punch and plays some exceptional defense. The offensive front is led by seniors Scott Harris (Saline, MI/Saline), Tim Lehto (Farmington, MI/North Farmington), Ty Maruyama (Lakewood, CO/Green Mountain) and John Nowicki (Clinton Twp., MI/De La Salle Collegiate), along with junior Chris Nemes (Novi, MI/Detroit Catholic Central) and sophomore Troy Dennis (Baldwin, NY/Baldwin).
The defensive side is headlined by 2011 MAAC LSM of the Year junior Jordan Houtby (St. Catharines, ON/Holy Cross) and senior Brad Janer (Novi, MI/Detroit Catholic Central) and sophomores Nick Garippa (Rochester Hills, MI/Notre Dame Prep) and Joe MacLean (Bloomfield Hills, MI/Detroit Country Day).
“We have a lot of different guys who can get the job done,” said head coach Matt Holtz. “We may not be the fastest team, but we have speed and strength and for the first time since we started the program, we are not relying on freshmen out there.”
Houtby has been a fixture among the nation’s leaders in caused turnovers since he arrived in the Motor City and is primed for another big year. He was second in the country with 3.25 caused turnovers per game in 2011 and 11th in ground balls picking up 6.06 per game earning second team All-MAAC. He tied his own school record with six caused TO’s in a game against Mercer and also tallied four goals and two assists on the season None of his goals was bigger than the game winner against Marist in the MAAC semifinals as his marker to start the fourth quarter – his second of the contest – broke an 8-all game and gave UDM a 9-8 victory.
“He is a game changer at that position,” said Holtz. “I think it is rare to find LSM’s who can do that over the course of a game. Teams have to game plan for him. ”
Janer is one of the Titan captains and is a steady, athletic defensive midfielder. He has played in all 42 games in the program’s history and is coming off a career-high 23 ground balls and eight caused turnover campaign.
“He has played well for us and continues to be a strong leader out there on the field,” added Holtz.
Garippa is a strong midfielder with speed to go with his strength. His awareness on the field improved in every game last year and was as good a defensive player as there was from his position at year’s end. He ended up with 16 ground balls and six caused turnovers with his best effort in the Titans’ overtime win over Canisius, where he posted six GB’s and three caused TO’s.
MacLean filled a variety of roles serving as a face-off specialist along with his midfield play. He picked up 14 ground balls and had four caused turnovers.
“The guys we have for that defensive-mid position are probably in the top 10 in athleticism on our team,” said Holtz. “A lot of team’s want to primarily attack that position and if you don’t have someone to stand up there and make a play or stop a play from happening, then that is a dangerous place to be.”
Offensively, this group can be counted on to score and create goals. Harris, Lehto, Nemes and Nowicki have all notched at least 20 goals in their careers, with Harris coming off a season in which he had a career-high in points (39), goals (19) and assists (20).
“To have someone with Scott’s size, athleticism and skill is great,” said Holtz. “He is consistently the best midfielder we have. We can put him behind the net and he can attack against short sticks. With him, it helps us create some favorable match-ups for us.”
A quick and athletic player, Lehto had his best season last year with 12 goals, five assists and a career-best 21 ground balls. Nowicki was solid with seven goals and four assists, while the taller and stronger Nemes had his second-straight 10-goal season as a sophomore.
Maruyama is a captain for the second-straight season and his hard work is his biggest strength. He has tallied 11 goals and a pair of assists in his career, including a career-high six goals last season.
Dennis is a young player who, like a lot of the freshmen on the team, just kept improving throughout the season, ending with eight goals and 10 points. He was pretty accurate with his shot finishing with a 56.1% shots on goal percentage, and had goals in the Titan victories against VMI, Canisius, Manhattan and Marist. He also posted a season-high two in the road win at Siena.
“Ty and Dennis are two of the hardest working players on this team and they find ways to get it done,” Holtz said.
Detroit will also have some great depth at the position with experience and youth filling out the unit. Seniors Jon Bemben (Hartland, MI/Hartland) and Adam Parrottino (Troy, MI/De La Salle Collegiate) are key veterans who have been in the system since UDM’s inaugural season. Sophomores Nick Schesnuk (Chesterfield, MI/De La Salle) and Tim Robertson (Waterford, MI/Notre Dame Prep) are back along with redshirt freshman Thomas Sible (Grand Rapids, MI/Forest Hills Central) and newcomers Mike Birney (Plymouth, MI/Catholic Central), Tyler Harper (Baldwin, NY/Baldwin), Damien Hicks (Copiague, NY/Copiague) and Chris Mandell (Sterling Heights, MI/De La Salle).
The depth at LSM includes three sophomores in Andrew Khalil (Macomb, MI/De La Salle), Drew Schupbach (Clarkston, MI/St. Mary’s) and Kevin DiSalle (Pontiac, MI/Orchard Lake St. Mary’s).
“This unit gives us a number of different threats with the personnel we have,” said Holtz. “We are happy where we are with our speed and I think both offensively and defensively, this is going to be a strong group for us.”
This is the first of a five-part season preview leading up to the Titans’ season opener at Delaware on Feb. 4.