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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Aug. 14, 2017) – Coming off a successful 2016 campaign that saw the program’s first-ever at large entry into the NCAA Tournament, the ETSU men’s soccer team is anxious to start the 2017 season.
ETSU head coach Bo Oshoniyi’s squad comes into this season after posting a 12-5-3 record in 2016, which included a regular season Southern Conference championship, an appearance in the conference tournament championship and a 7-0-1 home record.
“Our guys are working hard right now and have worked hard in the offseason,” Oshoniyi said. “Our mentality is right where it needs to me, and we just have to continue to build on that. We’re going to take things one game at a time, and once we get to Dayton, we’ll get the ball rolling.”
The Bucs lost a number of seniors to graduation last season, including Charlie Machell, who recently signed a one-year professional contract with Thisted FC of the Danish First Division. ETSU also lost forward Joao Ramalho and midfielder Mitchell Cecatiello, who were the team’s second and third leading goal scorers from last season, respectively.
Replacing those guys are a wave of established seniors who each contributed to the team’s success last season, including preseason all-conference selections Fletcher Ekern (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Cameron Woodfin (Old Hickory, Tenn.).
Ekern will once again anchor the ETSU offensive attack after leading the SoCon in goals in back to back seasons. After finishing his sophomore and junior seasons with 19 combined goals, Ekern is in line to pass former ETSU standout David Geno for the program’s career goal record Ekern needs seven goals to accomplish the feat.
“It’s pretty surreal, but I’m more focused on helping the team get better,” Ekern said about the record. “The only way I get those records is if we win games and if we’re all playing well. I have the easy job of putting it in the goal, but I also realize I can’t score these goals by myself.”
Woodfin led the entire NCAA last season with 12 assists and broke the program record in the process. Woodfin also scored five goals en route to a team-high 22 points on the season.
Joining the duo on the all-conference preseason team is junior goalkeeper Jonny Sutherland (Chester, U.K.), junior midfielder Serge Gomis (Dakar, Senegal) and sophomore defender Joe Pickering (East Sussex, England).
Sutherland adds another dimension of experience to the team between the pipes, as he received the 2016 SoCon Goalkeeper of the Year award. He had 70 saves and nine shutouts while only allowing 0.92 goals per game in 2016. The junior is 11 wins and 11 shutouts away away from tying the respective school records, as current record holder Ryan Coulter finished his career with 30 wins and 25 saves.
“Goalkeepers sometimes aren’t the focal point of a team, but you can’t really win without good goalkeeping,” Oshoniyi said. “We’ve been fortunate for the last two years to have – for me – the best goalkeeper in the conference. He’s rock solid for us and has been a great leader for us on and off the field getting the new guys going.”
Pickering, the 2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year, will look to continue anchoring the backline alongside seniors Chase Clack (Memphis, Tenn.) and Ben Holt (Knoxville, Tenn.), and redshirt junior Sam Sevigny (Quebec, Canada), who is coming off a season-ending ACL surgery from last season.
In the midfield, Gomis is joined by a Floridian duo in senior Jeffrey George (Safety Harbor, Fla.) and redshirt junior Nick Spielman (Melbourne, Fla.) who each contributed last season. Junior Luke Parker (Memphis, Tenn.), who appeared in all 20 games last season with 10 starts, also returns to the team.
Nobody’s job is safe heading into the season, as a wave of newcomers are gunning for playing time straightaway.
To compliment his upperclassmen, Oshoniyi brought in 11 freshmen and one transfer from Carson-Newman University in sophomore forward Bruno Andrade (Sao Paulo, Brazil). The fourth year head coach said many of the newcomers will have ample opportunities to contribute and even land starting roles.
“We’ve brought in some tough kids and they’re excited to build on what we did last year,” Oshoniyi said. “Some of them have a chance (to play immediately). I think it depends on how quickly they can absorb all the information. We’ve thrown a lot at them and some are picking it up quicker than others. I think the good thing is that we have a veteran group to help our young guys out.”
One freshman made an early impact in exhibition play, as local product Jordan Broadwater (Kingsport, Tenn.) scored the game winning goal against UNC Asheville to lead the Bucs to a 1-0 victory last weekend.
The Bucs begin regular season play August 25 at Dayton with kickoff time set for 6 p.m. ETSU then returns home to face Kentucky August 29 in Summers Taylor Stadium 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.