SEASON PREVIEW: Royals Use Experience To Replace Offense

Jesus Trejo scored four goals in a reserve role last season. (photo by Scott Eyre)
Jesus Trejo scored four goals in a reserve role last season. (photo by Scott Eyre)

EMU's soccer men returned to the 10-win plateau last fall, reaching double digits for the first time in six years. That young roster is back and bolstered by their experience.

To reach new heights, the Royals will need to replace their top scorers. They have starters back at most other positions, and that chemistry should be evident from game one of the 2018 season.

Record in 2017: 10-7 (4-5 ODAC)
Coach: Roger Mast (240-237-43 overall, 108-121-22 ODAC in 27 seasons) - Mast has produced 15 seasons with a record of .500. He is a two-time ODAC Coach of the Year, having led five teams to the ODAC Championship game with ODAC titles in 1996 and 1998.

Season opener in 2018:
- hosting Sewanee on Friday, Aug. 31 at 6:00pm. The Royals also host Bethany (WV) on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7:00pm.
Other season highlights:
- host 11 games in their 18-game regular season
- host rival Bridgewater in a non-conference friendly on Wednesday, Sept. 12
- play at defending National Champion Messiah on Saturday, Sept. 15
- celebrate Parents Recognition on Homecoming Weekend, hosting defending ODAC Champion Lynchburg on Saturday, Oct. 13
- celebrate Senior Recognition in their home finale against Guilford on Saturday, Oct. 20

Interview

SID: How would you recap 2017 in a couple of sentences, and how does that play into your team for this fall?

RM: We are coming off a 10-win season and went 6-1 vs. non-conference opponents losing only away to regionally ranked Maryville College.  We had solid performance wins scoring six goals each in back-to-back wins over Guilford and Emory & Henry, an exciting 4-3 come-from-behind win at Bridgewater, and competitive losses to Washington and Lee (2-1 OT), Randolph Macon (2-1 OT), and Roanoke College (1-0). We went into the ODAC Tournament as the #8 seed before losing to ODAC Champion Lynchburg 2-0 in the ODAC quarterfinals. The team is hungry to go further this season as we return a strong core of players from last season's team.

SID: Despite a young roster last year, you lost some key players.  How will you replace them, both in play and leadership?

RM: Our roster is now comprised of primarily juniors and seniors who are experienced and more mature in the college game. Our key losses from our seniors from last season include one of our captains and high target player, Juan Luna, goalkeeper Matthew Overacker, midfielders David NesterGrayson Mast and Zach Sauder, and back Braden Herman. We will experience an impact from losing the leadership that they provided to the team, but have prepared for their departure with depth in their positional roles. These players were important contributors to shaping the culture of the men's soccer team. A good model is in place for our returning players of the expectations of our team culture and we have players ready to assume those roles.

SID: Who do you expect to be the key leaders of your team this year?

RM: Our captains include Emmanuel Boamah (Alexandria, Va./West Potomac), Erik Peachey (Lititz, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) and Dominic Powers (Culpeper, Va./Fresta Valley Christian). I also expect solid leadership from all players within the soccer team if they are going to be successful within our system.

SID: You have a lot of experience in the midfield and defense.  How does that play into your expectations for 2018?

RM: We return all four starting backs: (Emmanuel Boamah, Matthew Zimmerman (Partlow, Va./Spotsylvania), Caleb Lasrado (Woodbridge, Va./Forest Park), Carlos Flores-Melgar (Woodbridge, Va./Gar-Field), Dave Drafton (Alexandria, Va./Howard Gardner)  could also see time in a flank back role. Three center midfielders Dominic Powers, Nik Tucker (Matthews, N.C./Weddington), Caleb Oakes (Waynesboro, Va./Stuarts Draft), who may also see time in a flank attacking role, have experience in the starting rotation for the past two seasons and Troy Davis (Gainesville, Va./Patriot) also shows strong promise in our system of play. This core of players will be critical to our success this season.

SID: How do you expect the fill the offensive void lost by the departures of All-ODAC players like Juan Luna and David Shafer?

RM: Juan Luna has been a solid presence as a consistent scorer throughout his career. We expect Jesus Trejo (Winchester, Va./John Handley) to have a breakout season with more minutes on the field in a high target role. Leiyan Kariuki (Ongata Rongai, Kenya/St. Patricks) has also had a good spring and summer of training as a high target role. David Shafer's departure will be difficult to fill with his ability to score goals; however, our team chemistry should be better with players stepping in who are more willing to share the ball. We are looking for Troy Davis, Dave Drafton, Joshua Chiquillo (Woodbridge, Va./Gar-Field), Erik Peachey, and Caleb Oakes to contribute to our offensive scheme.

SID: Tell me a bit about your incoming recruiting class.

RM: We bring in 10 new players this fall. Two are goalkeepers. I am excited to see them develop and fit into our system of play and culture. They are excited to make an impact on the team and we are excited to begin working with them.  As a group, these players are hungry to play in the college game.

SID: What will the strengths of your team be this season?

RM: We will be solid defensively, centrally in the midfield, and have a diverse group of players with the ability to score goals.

SID: Overall general feeling of what 2018 will be for your team?

RM: I am excited for this team to achieve its potential. We have played as a young squad over the past two seasons. The experience that our players have going into the season is higher than in those previous years and there is no teacher of the game as strong as having been battle tested, and many of these players are. We also are paring down a 2017 roster of 37 to less than 30 players for the 2018 season. The intention is to have a culture that values the quality of experience for each of our players. We have increased our non-conference strength of schedule to include Messiah College (2017 National Champion), Lebanon Valley (2017 ECAC Champion), and Sewanee. We also play 11 of our 18 regular season matches at home and hope to see many of our student body, campus and larger community supporters at the games this season.