EC men’s soccer 2017 season preview

by Cole Sheeks, Sports Editor
Follow him at @ColeSheeks

The EC Men’s Soccer program brings back a wealth of experience as the team heads into their 2017 campaign. The Bluejays will be looking to improve upon last season’s 8-7-3 (3-4-1 CCIW) record that left them in 5th place among their conference peers and on the outside looking in at the postseason tournament for the first time since 2012.

If they manage to compete alongside the height weights of the CCIW this fall, it will likely come as a result of a stifling defense that features senior Nick King (2015 and 2016 All-CCIW 1st team) in the net, as well as fellow senior Andrew Hicks (2016 All-CCIW 2nd team) as a leading defender.

File Photo   Matt McNamara kicks the ball down field during a game from last season.

File Photo

Matt McNamara kicks the ball down field during a game from last season.

“Building a team from the back forward has always been our staple and will continue to be,” head coach Dave DiTomasso said. “We have great players and, more importantly, incredible people that will get the job done.”

That defense was among the best in the league last season, allowing only 1.2 goals per game throughout the entire schedule and a mere 10 goals during conference play, which ranked as the third lowest figure in the CCIW. With the foundation of that group returning, it is easy to expect the defense to keep the team in most contests.

“Our goal keeper is and always will be the backbone of our team. Nick King is a tremendous leader and impactful individual,” DiTomasso said. “Keeping soccer balls out of the goal is the key to winning games and Nick is incredible at doing that.”

DiTomasso went on to add that Andrew Hicks is a “workhorse and a player [the team] needs to lean on throughout the season. He needs to stay confident, stay even keeled, and be the engine of our team.”

That being said, the competition at the top of the CCIW figures to feature offensive firepower that will test the Bluejays defensive strengths and force an offense that ranked near the bottom of the conference in goals last season to take a step forward in the scoring department.

“Oliver Saile is one of [our] most talented players along with Zach Clements, Luke Deel, Josh Arvidson and JD Garnett. This group is expected to be very dangerous and score a lot of goals.”

Arvidson and Garnett saw significant action last fall and return as the Bluejays top two leading scorers from a season ago, combining for 20 points and 8 goals.

Saile, Clements, and Deel debuted as freshmen for the Bluejays last season and will be players to keep an eye on as they take on more responsibility within the offense.

In addition to the seniors who graduated out of the program, the Bluejays will also play this season without midfielder Keegan Thompson, who suffered a hip injury that will leave him watching from the sidelines for the duration.

The CCIW preseason coaches’ poll has predicted that the Bluejays will finish this season in 4th place, a result that would be put the Bluejays in a position to play for the conference title.

The Bluejays will open their season at Langhorst Field by playing a 5 p.m. game vs Greenville College on September 1st. They will begin CCIW play on September 27th at 7 p.m. when they visit Augustana College.