August 22nd, 2016

Bellarmine men's soccer preview

Adam Pruiett

Bellarmine University Assistant S.I.D

Bellarmine men's soccer preview
photo provided by the Bellarmine athletic department

Last season, the Bellarmine University men's soccer team absorbed the first rash of injuries and excelled for the majority of the year. But a second round of having multiple pivotal players banged up could not be overcome.

Leading into the final full weekend of Great Lakes Valley Conference play, the Knights were tied for second place in the league, but they dropped both those matches, their midweek regular-season finale and the first round of the conference tournament. That took some of the shine off the season, but ultimately Knights Coach Tim Chastonay was pleased with the team's output in the face of a slew of health issues.

"The year started slow because of some key injuries, but I think after the first weekend at UIndy when we played a couple nonconference games we sort of figured some things out and got some guys into positions where, if they weren't comfortable right away, eventually got comfortable after a few games. We really got off to a great start in the GLVC," Chastonay said. "But as we got near the end of the season, we ran into the same issues — some of those players (who had gotten comfortable in new spots) were injured and we were missing some really key players, especially across the back line. That made what looked to be a special season fizzle upon the end, but we never looked at it as a bad year considering we lost our leading goal scorer (Beau Laufer) for the last seven games and numerous players across the back line for multiple games."

Bellarmine finished the season 10-9 and made a ninth-straight trip to the GLVC Tournament. The bad news this go-around is that prolific playmaker Laufer (six goals, three assists in 13 matches in 2015) will miss the entire season due to injury, but the good news is that the Knights are a seasoned team that also boasts a bevy of promising freshmen.

"We have a lot of veteran guys back," said Chastonay, who is entering his 19th season overseeing the Knights. "There's some guys with quite a bit of experience who have been around for four years and had good game and training time with our staff. They're aware what our expectations are on a daily basis. We've brought in nine new guys and they seem to be following along with what the expectations are from the older guys. I feel like the older guys are really taking the younger guys under their wing and showing them what it means to play like we want to play and the culture that we're trying to create."

Bellarmine's consistently strong defense once again has the pieces to be stout. Senior defender Zach Digan is a four-year starter, and senior defender and captain Jared Kemper is a three-year starter. That duo is expected to anchor the team's defense from the middle. Senior defender Joey Stoltz started all but three matches last season and is an established right back. Chastonay said left back is a little more up in the air. Senior defender Jerrick Valentine could be leaned on as could senior defender Sanjin Mehicic, who has had bad luck with injuries in his career but is one of the team's most dependable players when healthy. Freshmen will be in the mix as well on the back line.

At holding midfield, sophomore Magnus Bertilsson (two goals, two assists in 2015) is coming off an All-Region freshman campaign, and senior Mitchell Wiseman is a four-year starter.

In senior Tommy Hebert and sophomore Zach Pogue, Bellarmine has a pair of goalkeepers with plenty of match experience. Hebert became the full-time starter over the latter half of his sophomore year. After he was injured in the first match last season, Pogue made 17 starts and recorded a 0.83 goals-against average with seven shutouts. Senior Evan Loyd and freshman Andrew Hagan are the other two reasons why Chastonay said that "we're very deep in goal. All four are guys any program would be lucky to have."

Scoring will naturally be more difficult without an All-Region player such as Laufer, so Chastonay is seeking a group effort to account for that lost production, saying, "We'll need a committee. We can't ask one person." Laufer is an attacking midfielder, and junior Nathan Jones (two goals, three assists) has capably filled that role in his absence. Jones could also be among a talented group of wings that includes juniors Callum Southern (two goals, two assists) and Ryan Fagan (three goals) and sophomore Keegan Gordon (two assists).

"We're very deep in those spots. Those four guys are excellent out wide," Chastonay said.

Up front, the Knights have junior Joe Workman (two goals) and senior Luke Mocherman (two assists). Senior midfielder J.D. Hawkins, junior defender Brad Woodlee, sophomore defender Ismael Candelario and sophomore midfielder Dustin Weber add depth to a Knights team that has put together 11 straight nonlosing seasons.

Chastonay has high expectations for his freshman class of Christopher Hunt, Mark Lanham, Tomas Bernedo, Mitch Lammert, Andrew Goetz, Donald Aviles, Gilio Aviles, Hartsul Bratcher and Andrew Hagan.

"All the freshmen have taken us by surprise," Chastonay said. "Some have the potential to be first-year starters to either unseat somebody or really compete for playing time. This year we feel like those young guys can add the depth that we were missing last year. Some are going to be immediate contributors, others will come off the bench and some will see playing time down the road, but all nine should be able to impact our team at some point."

Bellarmine opens the season Sept. 1 at Davis & Elkins. Before that match, the Knights host exhibitions at Owsley B. Frazier Stadium against Georgetown College (7:30 p.m. Wednesday) and Spalding (7 p.m. Friday).


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