BEREA, OHIO -- The Baldwin Wallace University men's soccer team and veteranHead Coach Reid Ayers return 16 lettermen and seven starters and will look to win the 2013 Ohio Athletic Conference title and earn a berth in the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
"We return a solid nucleus of student-athletes and have an outstanding recruiting class coming to camp who will compete with our veterans for playing time," said Coach Ayers, the winningest men's soccer coach in school history with 127 men's victories at BW and 310 in both his men's and women's coaching career.
"We have been right there [referring to an OAC title], but for whatever reason we have not finished what we started," said Ayers. "That will be the goal this season. To finish what we start. We hope to start and finish strong."
This year's squad is led by senior two-time All-OAC and two-time CAPITAL ONE Academic All-District 7 student-athlete and midfielder Judson Sprandel (Akron/Green). He has played in 47 matches the last three years and has been a key part of the midfield. He returns as one of the best midfielders in the OAC and helped the Yellow Jackets hold the opposition to 24 goals in 2012.
The midfield is a very talented group with lots of experience. Joining Sprandel in the midfield will be junior Ben Deighton (Richfield/Revere), senior Ashkon Bahrami (Newark) and juniors Michael Brennan (Akron/Walsh Jesuit), Nick Gallo (Richfield/Revere) and sophomore Zach Smith (Parma/Normandy).
Deighton, a two-year starter and the BW "Rookie of the Year" in 2011, looks to build off a six-goal and three-assist season in 2012. His 15 points ranked second on the team. Bahrami saw action in seven games and plays a key part as a defensive midfielder. Brennan had three goals and one assist for seven points. Gallo played in 13 matches, and started three. Zach Smith had two goals and an assist as a freshman and looks to improve again this season.
"We will need production from our midfield to be successful," said Ayers. "We will need the midfield to not only create chances for our forwards but to also score goals."
The defense should be an area of strength for this year's team. Returning starters, juniors Trey Arney (Coshocton), 2012 All-OAC pick Bill Gamble (Brunswick) and Mike Womack (Mentor) will anchor a Yellow Jacket defense that allowed just 24 goals in 17 matches last season. In addition, Gamble and Arney are important parts of BW's set pieces on offense and combined for three goals, two by Gamble and one by Arney. Competing for the final spot on the backline will be juniors Eric Sokol (Burrell, Pa.), Bryan Hutchinson (Medina) and Trevor Stankavich (Ravenna).
"Our defense should be solid with a trio of very solid players returning and a number of others who want to make a contribution," said Ayers.
In goal, senior Tyler Beaton (Bemus Point, N.Y./Maple Grove) returns for his first season as a starter. After splitting time with graduated senior Ryan Hulings '13, who is now playing professional soccer (see related story on Hulings at http://www.bwyellowjackets.com/sports/msoc/2013-14/releases/hullings_pittsburgh_riverhounds), he is ready to be the leader of the defense. Beaton started four games and played 383 minutes in 2012 and recorded a 2-2 mark with 24 saves.
"Having Tyler back in goal gives us a veteran presence and another team leader in the back," said Ayers. "He has solid goalkeeping skills and has started six varsity matches over the last two years."
Up front, look for senior Andrew Preis (Mentor), juniors Cody Smith (Brunswick) and Vince Milner (Mayfield) and sophomore Aaron Harden (Mentor) to compete for playing time. In 2012, the quartet combined to score three goals and add four assists. Preis had one goal and one assist despite battling injuries. Cody Smith had three assists and played in every match. Milner had two goals and one assist and played in 15 matches. Harden saw action in four matches and took eight shots.
"We graduated two very talented goalscorers in Pat Brennan and Kirk Graf," said Ayers. "We will need our forwards to step up and produce for the team to be successful".
Joining the team will be another talented class of freshmen. "I am very excited about our incoming players; in addition to their abilities on the field, they fit the culture we have established here and we expect a number of them to be key contributors this fall," added Ayers.
The Yellow Jackets open the season on August 30 versus Fredonia State (N.Y.) in the first match of the Herb Lauffer Memorial Tournament in Erie, Pennsylvania at 5:00 p.m. BW's first home game is on September 11 versus Case Western Reserve University on the Tressel Field pitch at The George Finnie Stadium at 7:00 p.m. The Yellow Jackets begin OAC play on October 5 against Otterbein University at The George Finnie Stadium at 3:30 p.m.
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