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Season Preview: Men's Soccer eyes return trip to NCAC Tournament

Season Preview: Men's Soccer eyes return trip to NCAC Tournament

By: Abbey Lipcsik

The Hiram College men's soccer team will look to contend in the always difficult North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) in 2016. Last season, the Terriers posted a 6-9-3 record and 2-6-1 mark in the NCAC.

Fourth year head coach Dan Zemanski knows that the conference is one of the best in the nation, as it features three teams ranked in the preseason top-20. In all, Zemanski returns 20 letterwinners from last season's squad. Here is how the 2016 Terriers break down:

FORWARDS

The Terriers will find one challenge heading into the season, replacing two of their all-conference scorers. With the departure of All-NCAC honorees Tanner Mathews and Richie Webb, Hiram will need others to step up on offense.

The Terriers will turn to a handful of talent to fill the goal scoring void. Senior Zac Cairns (North Olmsted, Ohio/St. Edward's) started in 15 of the team's 17 matches last season and was tied for the team lead in goals (7) and was second in points (15), on his way to Honorable Mention All-NCAC honors.

Both juniors Blake Easterling (Barberton, Ohio/University of Akron) and Bryan Burrows (Hudson, Ohio/University of Akron) joined the Terriers last year after transferring from the University of Akron last year. Easterling played in 18 matched last season, starting seven. During that time, he had two goals and two assists.  Burrows returns after suffering an injury that forced him miss the second half of last season. He ended up playing a total of eight games and scoring his first goal during his first game as a Terrier last September.

Other returning forwards include junior Quinn Galecki (Lancaster, Ohio/Lancaster), sophomore Jonathan Ross (Montville, Ohio/Ledgemont) and Mark Sobnosky (Akron, Ohio/Manchester). Hiram will also turn a handful of newcomers who hope to contribute right away.    

MIDFIELDERS

At midfield, Hiram welcomes back two-time Honorable Mention All-NCAC honoree senior Jake Pastore (Canton, Ohio/GlenOak). Pastore started in all 18 matches last season and finished with a career-high in assists (2).

Senior Vaal Ngalla (Columbus, Ohio/St. Charles Prep) returns at midfielder as well. Ngalla also started in all 18 games last season. He tallied a career-high three assists, which was second on the team. 

Junior Richard Milford (Akron, Ohio/University of Akron) also transferred from the University of Akron at the start of last season. He played in 17 contests and started 16 of them.

Junior Josh Lubich (Niles, Ohio. John F. Kennedy) also looks to compete for playing time as a midfielder. He has seen action in 32 career contests, making a start in eight. 

Zemanski also welcomes in new talent at the midfield position and looks for them to make an immediate impact.

DEFENSE

On defense, the Terriers return a ton of talent. Senior John Pretzlav (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Kenston) played in 52 games in his career and recorded his first goal last season against Wooster.

Senior Danny Mujica (Elkhart, Ind./Concord) also returns as a defender after making a position change last season, while senior Santiago Montano (The Woodlands, Tex./The Woodlands College) appeared in only four games due to an injury. Montano has one goal and one assist in his career. 

Senior David Grimwood (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard) adds to the depth after appearing in 15 contests last season. Add in senior Neil Zook (Doylestown, Ohio/Chippewa), junior Keegan Williams (Tallmadge, Ohio/St. Joseph's College) and junior Keanu Shelton (Youngstown, Ohio/Cleveland State) to the equation and Hiram will post what is sure to be quite the defensive threat.

GOALIES

Junior Luke Wilhelm (Shaker Heights, Ohio/University School) is the only returning goalkeeper for the Terriers. Wilhelm redshirted last year due to an injury. However, he made a great first impression during his freshman season, recording two shutouts and making 27 saves in seven starts. 

SCHEDULE

The 2016 campaign begins at the Herb Lauffer Memorial Tournament hosted by Penn State-Behrend. Hiram will open against crosstown rival Baldwin Wallace on September 2 and then will face either Penn State-Behrend or Houghton (N.Y.) on September 3. 

The Terriers will follow that by traveling to Allegheny (Pa.) to compete against Grove City (Pa.) and Thiel (Pa.) in the Allegheny Classic the following week. 

The Terriers will then play three nonconference matches against with home dates with Case Western and John Carroll and a road match at Otterbein.

Hiram travels to Wooster for the start of conference play on September 24. After that, the Terriers host a four-game homestretch, three being conference matches and one being non-conference.  The Terriers then battle Wabash (Ind.), defending NCAC champion Kenyon and Wittenberg on the road.  

Hiram will play its final two games at home against Oberlin and national power Ohio Wesleyan on October 25 and 29, respectively.

Zemanski knows the 2016 season will be challenging. The conference schedule is always difficult, but the non-conference slate is just as tough. Hiram will need to depend on its experience from previous seasons to contend for a NCAC championship in 2016.