Aug. 12, 2013
Written by Jeff Piascik, Athletic Communications
STORRS, Conn. - From Joseph Morrone in the late 1970's to O'Brian White in the mid 2000's, the Connecticut men's soccer program has consistently boasted an elite scoring threat in the midfield or at the forward position. With the 2013 season set to begin in less than three weeks, on Aug. 30th against St. Francis (N.Y.), senior forward Mamadou Doudou Diouf figures to be one of the premier scorers in the newly established American Athletic Conference and could threaten some of the longest standing records in UConn soccer history.
The Dakar, Senegal native led the 2012 team with 32 points on 15 goals and two assists, starting in 20 of the Huskies 22 matches. Diouf's offense was explosive and, at times, unstoppable, as he netted two or more goals in four games and averaged 1.52 points to lead the team. He was a named an NSCAA Second Team All-American and joined teammates Jossimar Sanchez, Andre Blake, and Carlos Alvarez on the All-BIG EAST First Team.
"Mama had a tremendous year for us last year," said head coach Ray Reid. "He scored big goal after big goal. His speed and strength created problems for opposing defenses and gave our team a great scoring option."
The senior already ranks 15th in UConn history with 73 career points and needs just one goal to crack the top-10 list in career goals for the Huskies with 35. Morrone holds a healthy lead in both major categories, having tallied 158 career points on 61 goals. As remarkable as Diouf's numbers are through three years, it's even more impressive that he played in just 12 games as a freshman after suffering an injury and still received BIG EAST All-Rookie Team Honors. In terms of single season records, his 15 goals in 2012 ties him for 11th all-time.
Diouf doesn't read much into his eye-popping statistics, instead choosing to bring light to his teammates in the midfield and on defense.
"People need to give those guys credit," said Diouf adamantly. "Without them we're not going to win our games, plain and simple. They do everything for us. It extends to the second team too. Every time those guys step on the field they are doing something to help us. They give 100% all the time, whether it's at practice or in the games. We have a lot of guys that that do unbelievable work for the team. That's the difference between UConn and any other program. I'm glad to be able to be around these guys on a consistent basis. They are the reason I want to go out there and fight. "
A key storyline for the 2013 Huskies will be the how the offense responds after midfielder Carlos Alvarez, who finished second on the team with 23 points, was drafted No. 2 overall by Chivas USA in the MLS SuperDraft. Alvarez was no doubt a supremely talented player on the field, but also brought a invaluable element of leadership to Reid's squad, steadying his teammates when they faced their toughest challenges.
"I have a ton of respect for what he accomplished here," Diouf said of his former teammate. "He's a big time player. He was always there to help me. He was a leader on and off the field. It's never fun to see guys close to you leave. But that's life and we have to deal with it. I miss him a lot, but what I learned from him is going to stick with me for my entire career."
UConn fans who were regulars at Joseph J. Morrone stadium over the past three seasons have seen Diouf's passion for the game of soccer on full display. His fiery attitude has delighted the Husky faithful and helped him elevate his play to a higher level. Alvarez's departure brings an added a new component to Diouf's final year of eligibility as defenses will be game-planning to slow down the forward's electric style of play.
"Honestly, I was looking for this challenge. It's part of the reason I came here. I've had great players helping in my first three years but I think this is a good chance for me to show people exactly what I can do."
While Diouf's senior campaign won't officially begin for almost three weeks, he has been preparing for this moment almost immediately after UConn was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the 2012 Quarterfinals.
"We had one week off after the season. We wanted to get right back to the weight room because we knew we were going to lose a couple of guys and we needed to step up. We know how good the competition is throughout the country. We know that to win you have to outwork everyone. That starts in the offseason."
Diouf's work ethic is something that redshirt-senior Colin Bradley, who has played every game since Diouf joined the team in 2010, believes makes him one of the best players in the AAC.
"He's probably the best forward I've ever played with," said Bradley." He's just a complete player. When he's in the box he's absolutely phenomenal. It's more than that though, he's a great guy and is a great personality to have in the locker room. He gets other guys involved and keeps our energy high all the time. Every team needs a guy like him. He's a humble guy and doesn't let the spotlight go to his head."
Indeed, Diouf is special talent on and off the field and should provide the 2013 team with a major spark in its inaugural season in The American.
"At the end of the day, it's all about UConn. It's about the team. It's about the University, and it's about the Huskies. We need to stay together and stay within ourselves. We want to show people that Connecticut soccer is one of the best programs in the country."