JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Aug. 15, 2016) – With almost a week of preseason practices underway, the ETSU men’s soccer team will continue their preseason schedule with a road trip to Virginia Tech on Aug. 16.
The Bucs return most of their starters from 2016 but lost a key starter from last year: James Smith. Smith, however, joined the coaching staff and looks to be a leader on the sideline for the Blue and Gold this season.
With the plethora of experienced players on the team, sophomore goalkeeper Jonny Sutherland (Chester, U.K.) and junior forward Fletcher Ekern (Knoxville, Tenn.) highlight the returners for ETSU.
Sutherland started all 19 matches as a rookie in which he tallied five shutouts for the third-most in the SoCon. He also had the third-best save percentage in the conference at .745 and tallied a 1.19 goals against average.
“I really want to win the conference, and I think we have the team to do it. We did lose a few players, but I think Coach Bo and Coach Lilly built a solid team that is going to be competing for the conference title,” said Sutherland. “We are really trying to progress and make it to the nationals and really put our mark down as a competitive school.”
Ekern looks to lead the offensive side as he led the conference in goals scored (10) and goals per game (0.53) last season. He finished second in the Southern Conference in points (23) and points per game (1.21). With 45 appearances and 36 starts in his career, he will be a valuable leader for ETSU.
“I feel we have a really good team this year. We had one preseason match already and everything seems to be going well. There is a lot of depth, which helps out a lot going forward. Especially if injuries happen, we can have guys step up and take over those spots or just to have another tool on the bench,” Ekern said.
Also returning for the Bucs is most of their backline with Samuel Sevigny (Quebec, Canada), Ben Holt (Knoxville, Tenn.), Chase Clack (Memphis, Tenn.), and Yera Sissoko (Troyes, France). In his final year of eligibility, Joao Ramalho (Monte Santo, Brazil) looks to leave another mark after earning the 2014 Player of the Year.
To add depth at all positions, Head Coach Bo Oshoniyi brought in eight new players including four college transfers and four true freshmen. The transfers bring experience to ETSU by amassing 120 appearances and 94 starts with nearly half coming from senior Charlie Machell (Newcastle, England) (59 appearances and 52 starts) who transferred from Wingate University.
“A big point in recruiting this year was to bring in players with some experience at the college level. We didn’t want to bring in a strictly freshmen class. We wanted to also bring in some transfers with games under their belt. I think those guys can jump right in and contribute early for us,” said Oshoniyi. “We brought in younger players who aren’t really freshmen. They are more aggressive than a normal class and not as naive as you would expect coming to college.”
When asked about the team’s expectations, Coach Oshoniyi responded: “Our expectations have to be high. We made it to the conference final just last season, so anything less than that is a bit of a failure. We have a good and talented group coming in along with a lot of experienced returners. I think everyone is hungry to win a conference championship and get into the NCAA Tournament.”
Following their second match of the preseason tomorrow at VT, the Bucs will conclude their preseason versus Milligan College at home on Aug. 20 with kickoff at 7 p.m.
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For more information on Buccaneer men’s soccer visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the men’s soccer page.