COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Capital University men's soccer team looks to build off its 10-win season from 2014, a year in which the Crusaders advanced to the semifinals of the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament.
Capital eliminated Ohio Northern University in a 1-0 quarterfinal matchup, a game in which Josh Spaw scored the game-winning goal. The Crusaders lost a few days later in the semifinals against John Carroll University.
This season, the Crusaders are predicted to finish fifth in the OAC Preseason Poll.
"We think we're capable of making to the finals of the OAC and to the NCAA Tournament. That is the ultimate goal," says senior tri-captain Hunter Booth.
One of Capital's most interesting position battles will be between the pipes. Sophomores Justin Niswonger (Centerville, Ohio) and Trevor Funk (Dublin, Ohio/Bishop Watterson) head the top of the depth chart in goal heading into the season. Last season, the duo split time with Niswonger starting seven matches and Funk starting in 10. Niswonger led the team with 39 saves, nine more than Funk. He also notched two shut outs.
Freshman Logan Weidmann (Cincinnati, Ohio) has been added to the mix as he looks to compete for minutes.
Sophomore forward Calvin Saunders headlines a group of talented forwards, coming off an impressive freshman year in which he finished second on the team in goals scored. He was recognized around the conference as an impact player as he was named Honorable Mention All-OAC.
Junior Cheyn Roux also adds talent to the group, having made 18 starts a season ago. The Davidson, N.C. native tallied 35 shots, 17 on goal, and five goals. His experience will prove to be invaluable this season for the Crusaders.
Perhaps the hidden gem of the team will be senior Mario Saurez (Strongsville, Ohio), who headlines the group of midfielders after starting every game in 2014. He posted 15 shots, seven on goal, and five points but has had an impressive preseason on the offensive side.
Jacob Pulliam will also look to make an impact following a year in which he was All-Ohio Athletic Conference honorable mention selection. The junior captain racked up five assists while posting 18 shots, seven on goal.
The midfielder is Capital's most experienced group as it returns 12 at the position from last year's team.
On defense, the Crusaders return one of its top players from a year ago in newly elected captain, Josh Spaw (Cincinnati, Ohio). Spaw had a direct impact on Capital's win column, scoring two game-winning goals. The senior scored three on the season on his way to being named All-OAC honorable mention.
"I think our formation and ability to use the backline for defense and offense as well gives us an advantage over other teams," says Booth.
Junior Alexander Basiakos (Hilliard, Ohio/Bradley) and sophomore Josh McDaniel (Cincinnati, Ohio) also return to the lineup to shore up the backline. In his first year with the program, Basiakos played in all the team's matches a year ago, taking five shots with one on goal. McDaniel tallied 16 shots, 11 on goal, while collected five points in 20 appearances.
While the defense has a few players recovering from offseason injuries, once fully healthy it has a very high ceiling.
"We're capable of a lot of shutouts," said Booth.
Capital pitched six goose eggs to its opponents last year and held the eventual NCAA Division III semifinalist Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops to one goal in the Crusaders' upset win last year. They will battle again, this time in Delaware in the first month of the season.
The Crusaders have high hopes for the 2015 season and their success relies heavily on their upperclassmen's play and guidance. Among the freshman class there are thought to be some major contributors that will see action early. With injuries opening up some opportunity, Daniel Bundschuh (Cincinnati, Ohio) has the chance to rise into a starting role in nonconference play. Sheldon Gordon, known as "Chewy" to his teammates has the potential to be a goal scorer early in his Capital career. Booth likens the Westerville, Ohio native as "a bull in a china shop" and "will the goals when we need them most."
Capital's season gets underway against Albion College on Friday, Sept. 4. Conference play begins on Oct. 3 with a home match against the University of Mount Union.