The Hiram College men's soccer program enters the 2017 looking to rely on veteran leadership to get back to the North Coast Athletic Conference Championship Tournament for the first time since 2012.
Coming off their second-consecutive six-win season, the Terriers return 19 letterwinners to the roster. Despite losing eight seniors, including seven starters, to graduation last season, Hiram still returns 11 upperclassmen, including nine senior players this year.
The captains of this year's squad will come from the middle of the field, as returning seniors Josh Lubich and Richard Milford, as well as sophomore John Virag, will look to lead the team from the center of the action.
Named a captain for the first time in his career, Lubich has played in 49 career games while posting two career tallies. Making the most of his chances throughout his first three seasons, he has posted a .500 shot-on-goal percentage.
Milford enters his third season with the Terriers after transferring in from the University of Akron following his freshman campaign. The Akron, Ohio native has started in 29 of the 31 games in which he has appeared and has a goal and an assist to his credit.
Virag is also no stranger to a starting role, despite just being in his second season with the program. Last year, the Lakewood, Ohio native started in 14 games as a freshman. He will be looked upon for leadership in his second year, being named a captain for the first time.
The Terrier offense will look to improve upon a 2016 season that saw the team rank eighth in goals per game (1.41) and ninth in total shots (11.18). Like all other positions on the field, however, the Terriers will look to their returning letterwinners to provide the depth at the position.
Galecki took on more of a starter's role in 2016, making 12 starts in 17 appearances. He finished the year with a goal and a pair of assists while posting a career-best on-goal percentage of .438. Likewise, Shelton also tallied a pair of markers on the year in '16, placing over 53% of his shots on net.
Joining the three seniors at the top of the attack is sophomore Austin Blatt. The Zanesville, Ohio native led the Terriers in shots on goal in 2016, placing 14 on net, while tallying a pair of markers throughout the year.
Other players that will vie for time on the attack include senior Blake Easterling, as well as Freshmen Giovanni Meza and Justin Parkins. Easterling has two career goals to his credit, while both Meza (Mansfield Summit High School) and Parkins (Hubbard High School) were four-year players at their respective schools.
Along with the trio of captains that will make up the midfield this season, Easterling could also see time at that position as well. In addition, Bryce Harding will also look to log some minutes in the middle of the pitch.
The defensive side of the ball looks to be just as experienced as the attack for the Terriers in 2017, with upperclassmen making up the top five spots. Senior Keegan Williams returns for his third and final season, while senior Kyle Watson returns to the pitch after a two-year hiatus.
Williams appeared in 13 games in 2016, making six starts on the season. Watson, meanwhile, started in eight games on defense as a freshman. Watson came into his soccer career after earning First-Team All-Ohio honors during his senior campaign at Howland High School.
Joining the seniors on the back line will be sophomores Brian Corbin, Sam Reckley and Saint Roger Bountsebe. Both Corbin and Reckley saw time on defense last year, while Bountsebe will be seeing his first taste of action in 2017.
Overall the returning group of defenders helped the Terriers drop their goals against average to 1.5 in 2016, giving up five goals less than the 2015 campaign.
In net, the departure of 2016 starter Luke Wilhelm has given way to sophomore CJ Keith to become the everyday goalkeeper. Last season, Keith appeared in three games throughout the season, no surrendering a goal in 154 minutes of action. He tallied his first-career victory in a shutout performance against Penn State-Beaver on October 4.
The men's soccer team will open the 2017 season with the Hiram College Classic on September 1. The Terriers will square off against Albion College on Friday (4 PM), before tangling with Westminster College (7:45 PM) on Sunday, Sept. 3.
Hiram will play six of their first nine games in the friendly confines of Charles A. Henry Field, opening their North Coast Athletic Conference schedule on Sept. 23 against Wabash a 2 p.m. Other conference teams making their way to Hiram this season include Kenyon College (Oct. 14 – 7:30 PM), The College of Wooster (Oct. 17 – 7:00 PM) and Wittenberg University (Oct. 28 – 7:00 PM).