August 11th, 2015

Bellarmine men's soccer preview

Adam Pruiett

Bellarmine University Assistant S.I.D

Bellarmine men's soccer preview
Bellarmine's men's soccer team went 8-8-3 last season / photo by John Sommers II

There was the heartbreak of dropping four straight games by one goal each. And then there was the ensuing exhilaration of going unbeaten over six consecutive games to rally to clinch a berth in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament.

For the Bellarmine University men's soccer team, a 2014 season that ended with the Knights going 8-8-3 overall and 6-6-3 in the GLVC played out as the records indicate — there were highs, lows and mixed feelings, like nearly upsetting eventual NCAA Final Four qualifier Quincy in the conference tournament before the Hawks scored twice inside the final three minutes to earn a 2-1 victory.

"We started slow," junior defender Zach Digan noted, "but then we started to play more collectively and turned it around at the end and finished strong."

"We starting playing together and getting used to who we were as a team," added junior midfielder Jared Kemper, "but hopefully we can find that a little sooner this year."

Finding the back of the net more frequently would go a long way toward the Knights finding their footing. Bellarmine's defense allowed 21 goals last season, tied for the third-best goal-stopping output in program history. The Knights had their struggles offensively, though, producing 30 goals, a combined 15 of which came from the departed Dan Schiavi and Kai Qualah.

"We felt like we played really good, attractive soccer all year, but we weren't good in some areas," said BU Coach Tim Chastonay, who is entering his 18th season leading the Knights and has accumulated a program-best 150 victories. "Playing good soccer is something that people take pride in, but ultimately you have to score goals. We played a lot of good soccer — and outplayed many of the teams we went up against — but in the end a lack of goal scoring was really an Achilles Heel."

While Bellarmine's roster contains only one senior in defender Brandon Shuck, the Knights nonetheless have plenty of experience, with seven players back who recorded 10 or more starts last season and another in junior goalkeeper Tommy Hebert who took over starting duties during the second half of the year.

The historically shrewd defense returns largely intact. In his first two seasons, Digan started every game but one and even scored three goals last season. Sophomore Michael Albes logged 14 starts as a freshman and junior Sanjin Mehicic was another fixture in the starting lineup. Shuck missed all of last season due to injury but is one of BU's top players when healthy, Chastonay said. Junior Sam Overbee and freshman Ismael Fernandez are expected to further bolster the back line along with junior Jerrick Valentine and sophomore Joey Stoltz.

Kemper and fellow junior Mitchell Wiseman combined for 22 starts last season and will patrol the defensive midfield for the Knights along with freshman Dustin Weber. In the net, Hebert's 0.75 goals-against average was the second-best single-season mark in Bellarmine history and his 81.8 save percentage ranked fourth. Junior Connor Murphy, sophomore Evan Loyd and freshman Zach Pogue add depth at goalkeeper.


"I'm expecting big things from those guys," Chastonay said of his defense as a whole. "I think they'll keep us in every game. It's going to be a strong back line, no question, and we see goalkeeping as being a strength of our team once again."

Sophomore Callum Southern (three goals, one assist in 2014) has the tall task of filling the role of three-time All-Midwest Region midfielder Schiavi, with Chastonay noting that Southern "has a lot of the qualities that Dan has. He's a good playmaker that can make great passes for guys who can score goals."

Also in the attacking midfield will be sophomores Trevor Thompson, who started every game last season, and Ryan Fagan, who saw significant minutes, along with junior J.D. Hawkins, sophomore Nathan Jones and freshmen Keegan Gordon, Christian Lister and Nathan Roshelli.

Sophomore forward Joe Workman was yet another BU freshman last season who saw plenty of action. Sophomore Luke Mocherman joins Workman up front and freshman Magnus Bertilsson is anticipated to make an impact in what could be a variety of capacities, Chastonay said.

"We're going to rely on young players who we're developing in our program to become those goal scorers," Chastonay said. "We're going to have to do some things as a coaching staff with our personnel to create more chances."

Digan believes those chances will come and that the Knights' young group of attackers will do their best to make good on them.

"We've started seeing guys step up to the plate lately and put the ball in the back of the net," Digan said.

Despite having only one senior, Chastonay said the Knights have not lacked leadership, particularly from a seasoned junior class that knew it would be its job to guide the team at this point.

"Since our freshman year, we've really looked at this year," Kemper, one of the juniors, said. "A lot of us are going to be big components on this team and next year's. We've been looking forward to it. Our junior class is going to have to step up and be role models for the freshmen and even for the sophomores."

Bellarmine opens its season by playing an exhibition at Division I University of Evansville on Monday, Aug. 17. The Knights begin the regular season on Sept. 3 against Cedarville at the University of Indianapolis.

Bellarmine will be seeking its ninth straight appearance in the GLVC Tournament and 11th consecutive nonlosing season.

"I think we're really excited to get back," Digan said, "and hopefully that energy will translate into some good sessions at the start and then some victories."


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