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Big Cat awakens to Midnight Madness

As the 2008 season came to a close, the University of Minnesota, Morris men's soccer team sat watching minutes flutter past, awaiting news about a possible at-large bid to the NCAA post-season tournament.

Alas, the invite never arrived.

With the feeling of that bitter rejection still fresh in his mind, head coach Christian DeVries isn't wasting a second getting ready for 2009.

The NCAA says soccer teams cannot begin practice before Wednesday, Aug. 19, and in keeping with the rules, DeVries has called his first practice at 12:05 a.m. under the lights at Big Cat Stadium.

Like division 1 basketball teams around the country, this version of Midnight Madness will be open to the public and DeVries hopes fans will come out and watch.

Thirty-five players are coming into camp this year, to a team that went 18-4 a year ago. DeVries says the midnight practice "will help get first day jitters out of the way. By the time we hit full training, we'll be ready to go."

Of those 35 players vying for roster spots, 13 played significant minutes for the Cougars last season.

DeVries hopes the midnight practice will bring forward some of the momentum from 2008.