Men’s soccer returns to the field

With 7 starters back, the men's soccer team is ready to return to the NCAA tournament

| August 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

Daniel Bruce goes for the ball in against Virginia Tech in the second round of the NCAA tournament. NT File Photo

For the past two seasons, the men’s soccer program has fallen in the second round of the NCAA tournament. This season, they look to break their trend and that pursuit begins on Aug. 15 when the squad plays the first of their two exhibition games.

As the new season begins, junior Callum Montgomery keeps the Niners’ shortened tourney runs in the back of his mind to serve as motivation.

“The last two seasons are lingering a little bit, both seasons we’ve gotten stuck in the second round. I try not to think about that too much and just focus on this season. A big goal for me is to make that third round, so that’s what we’re going to be working for every day,” Montgomery said.

The team starts their season with official practices starting on Thursday, though the NCAA tournament is a priority for the squad, for head coach Kevin Langan it shouldn’t remain a focal point for the whole season.

“It’s never granted to make the NCAA, we have to work extremely hard to get there. Everyone starts at the start line. We have a lot of huge games, a lot of sessions, a lot of miles to run,” Langan said. “It’s very important to set goals, it’s very important to know the purpose of why we’re all here and what we want to do, but that’s it. You mention it, you talk about it, you make affirmations at the start, then you just go to work every single day.”

After the second exhibition game on Aug. 19 in High Point, the 49ers kick off their regular season campaign Aug. 26, hosting Winthrop. Their slate includes seven teams that played in the NCAA tournament last season: Coastal Carolina, Clemson, Radford, Louisville, South Carolina, New Mexico and Kentucky. A challenging schedule isn’t anything new for the Niners, but after his experience last season, Daniel Bruce doesn’t pay attention to the rank of an opponent.

“We’ve wasted time before looking at the schedule, looking at the fixtures and thinking ‘oh this will be a tough game, this will be a hard one.’ We went away at Clemson and beat them 1-0, then came home and drew a 1-1 to App State last year,” Bruce said. “So it’s a waste of time to look at teams and think ‘oh it’ll be hard,’ you’ve just got to come out, it’s 90 minutes, 11 against 11, and just see what you can do and hopefully pull out a win.”

The team returns seven starters from last season and welcomes 12 new names to the roster. With spots needing to be filled, the novice Niners will be vying for the open positions heading to the preseason practices.

“There are open spots they know they’ll be fighting for. I expect this preseason to have perhaps more of an edge in training than it has in the past, not because the past was lacking, but there are some real clear open spaces that people will be fighting for which I’m excite by. Once you get that in training, that real competitive edge in training, it translates to the field real easy,” Langan said.

One of the seven players returning includes goalkeeper Elliot Panicco, who received the Conference USA Golden Glove Award as well as being named the C-USA Freshman of the Year last season. Also back on the field is Montgomery who was named to the second-team CoSIDA Academic All-American team as well as to the C-USA All-Academic team for the 2016 season. Tommy Madden will be back to help the team in the midfield position. Madden was named to the C-USA All-Tournament team last season and started in all 18 games.

Sporting the number 10 jersey this season for the 49ers is junior Bruce. In soccer, the 10 jersey is reserved for the most valuable person on the field, they set the tempo for the team. Bruce had six goals and two assists last season. His six goals was second on the team. He also garnered a C-USA Offensive Player of the Week nod after being responsible for the game-winning goal for the Niners road win against No. 3 Clemson.

“Having that notion of freedom that you can go forward or go back and having that role on the field to keep things together, keep things gelled, keep things flowing, it’s a lot to have on your shoulders, but it’s always an honor to wear as well,” Bruce said.

Along with skills on the field, the returning players bring back a character that Langan feels will help to influence the team off the field as well.

“There’s a really good core, a really good spine back of not just phenomenal players with great college resumes behind them, but really top-class student-athletes with great integrity, great humility. So they’re going to really lead the group well, we know that,” Langan said.

The 49ers can be seen in action on Aug. 15 with an exhibition game against Winthrop at 7 p.m. They begin the regular season on Aug. 26, hosting Winthrop at TransAmerica Field.

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Category:Men's Soccer, Sports

Kathleen Cook Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the sophomore communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.

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Kathleen Cook Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the sophomore communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.

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