By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
How do you follow a season that saw Capital University Men's Soccer set program records and earn a berth in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals? For sixth-year head coach Alan Yost, that comes down to accountability.
"I let them know that this is their team, it's not my team," Yost said. "They're in charge of upholding the expectations and standards within themselves and amongst the team. It sounds weird but we try not to preach winning too much. It's more about the process."
There is no question that the expectations and standards were raised and that a lot of winning was done by the Purple and White after setting records for the longest winning streak (10 games) and longest unbeaten streak (14 games) in program history in 2016.
In 2017, Capital was picked to finish third in the OAC's preseason coaches' poll but the team will aim much higher than that. Eight starters are returning to the program, including five key returners on offense.
"Very similar to what we did last year is that there's going to be a lot of subs, there's going to be a lot of guys contributing," Yost said. "If I didn't feel like we had the depth I wouldn't sub as much but knowing we have the depth and we have quality players, we're going to try and play at a very high level for as long as we can."
However, the team lost their top two goal scorers from a season ago. On a team with 15 sophomores and 11 freshmen, Yost says that they will be changing their tactics until the younger players are comfortable enough to open into their traditional 4-3-3.
Sophomore forward Trevor Collins (Powell, Ohio, Olentangy Liberty) returns after scoring four goals and contributing five assists last season. Returning juniors Daniel Bundschuh (Cincinnati Ohio, Walnut Hills) and Chewy Gordon (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville Central) each scored three goals and each added an assist in 2016 and will help generate offense.
On defense, Yost expects sophomore Greg Knox (Oxford, Mich./Oxford) to develop into a leader on the backline as a wing back along with sophomore Cole Moscovic (Novi, Mich./ Detroit Catholic Central) as a member of the back three.
Yost said that he doesn't expect many freshmen to play in every game like last season but he hopes first-year players Wesly Coleman (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West) and Aidan Minton (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville Central) will both contribute early on and expects several more to step up as the season goes on.
Senior keeper Justin Niswonger (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) is back in goal after a stellar junior season. Niswonger allowed only 1.05 goals per game and made 55 saves in 18 starts while compiling a 13-3-2 record in 2016 en route to an All-Ohio Third Team selection.
Yost's confidence in his team will be tested early and often this season. Capital will face five teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2016. The University of Saint Thomas (Minn.) is currently ranked third in the country and was a national semifinalist last season.
"If we want a chance to make the NCAA Tournament we either have to win our conference tournament or we have to be competitive for an at-large bid which means we have to play the best teams possible," Yost said. "Not only that but when we have the teams we have in the OAC like John Carroll and Ohio Northern, you better be able to play good teams before you step into conference or you just won't have a chance to win those types of games."
The Crusaders kick off their season on Friday, Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. on the road at Salisbury University. The first chance to catch the team at Bernlohr Stadium comes on Sept. 8 when the Purple and White host No. 3 St. Thomas (Minn.). Conference season starts on Sept. 30 against Otterbein University.