Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent
RALEIGH, N.C. – This was shaping up as a veteran-laden team for the N.C. State Wolfpack, but for the second straight year transfers have left holes in the lineup.
Three starters from a year ago who would have been juniors have transferred – M Zach Knudson (Georgetown), F Ryan Peterson (Rutgers), and D Cameron Steele (Penn State).
To offset the losses, State coach Kelly Findley tapped into a familiar recruiting pipeline.
Last year two freshmen from Germany, D Simon Blotko and M Julius Duchscherer, stepped into the starting lineup.
Findley has brought in four more German players – three of them transfers — as part of a 12-man recruiting class, including senior M Lukas Zarges, who transferred from UNC Greensboro.
The other German recruits are junior M Maximilian Luftl, junior D Adrian Gahabka, and freshman M Jan-Luca Ahillen.
Sophomore M Francesco Casucci, a transfer from New Mexico, is another experienced player who could help immediately in the midfield, and sophomore D Jake Dykes of Ireland could end up starting also.
Blending the international players into the mix could take some time, however.
Findley had to wait for several players to be cleared regarding academics, transfer status and NCAA eligibility, so he wasn’t able to see them in many game situations.
But he is excited about what he’s seen on the training field.
Once everyone is available, as many as five or six newcomers could end up in the starting lineup in the greatest areas of need, midfield and defense.
Among the holdovers, senior Yanni Hachem returns in the center midfield with Duchscherer on the right flank, and junior Caleb Duvernay and Blotko were the outside backs.
Redshirt senior Alex McCauley is a steady hand at goalkeeper.
An overriding concern will be scoring.
Knudson was the leading scorer on a team that struggled to finish off its attacks.
Findley is hoping a return to health for redshirt sophomore Ade Taiwo and sophomore Tanner Roberts will result in big seasons for the forwards.
Taiwo has had two ACL surgeries, and Roberts is coming off an MCL repair, so Findley’s optimism is tempered with caution.
Senior Travis Wannemuehler has filled a number of roles but will probably play extensively up front as well, where his crosses could prove a handy weapon.
Findley on the Wolfpack:
“We’ve got a good balance of ability, mentality, and experience, so I’m excited about that. Without question this is our deepest group. We’re more athletic than we’ve ever been, and we’ve got multiple guys competing for spots.”
Quick Notes – 2016 N.C. State Wolfpack
Coach: Kelly Findley (116-86-28 in 12 years, 40-39-13 in five years at N.C. State)
2015 record: 8-6-3, 1-4-3 ACC
Finish: 10th ACC, lost in 1st round of ACC tournament
Starters returning: 6
Preseason ranking: Unranked
Key losses: M Zach Knudson 6-3-15, F Ryan Peterson 2-1-5, D Cameron Steele 1-0-2, D Holden Fender 0-0-0, D Reed Norton 0-0-0
Key returnees: So. M Julius Duchscherer 5-2-12, Jr. D Caleb Duvernay 2-3-7, Sr. M Yanni Hachem 3-1-7, So. F Tanner Roberts 1-0-2, So. D Simon Blotko 0-3-3, Sr. F Travis Wannemuehler 0-5-5, R-Sr. GK Alex McCauley 8-6-3, 3 SO, 1.48 GAA
Top newcomers: So. M Francesco Casucci, Sr. M Lukas Zarges, Jr. D Adrian Gahabka, So. D Jake Dykes, Jr. M Maximilian Luftl, M Jan-Luca Ahilllen, F Bryant Nardizzi, D Harry Adanuty, GK Nick Cournoyer
Won’t play: Notre Dame, UNC (in ACC), Virginia