An analysis of men's soccer 2017 roster
Three: The number of overtime losses Cairn men’s soccer had during the 2016 season. This is arguably the most noticeable reason why they missed the 2016 CSAC playoff tournament, the same tournament which they came within a game of qualifying for in the 2015 season. Due to all of that, it is fair to say that the Cairn men’s soccer team has had their fair share of heartbreak over the past few seasons. However, the returning talent and overall structure of the program would suggest the 2017 season will be the year Cairn men’s soccer breaks through and makes the 2017 CSAC playoffs.
The Highlanders finished last season with a record of 7-11-1, including a 3-6 record in the CSAC. As mentioned earlier, the Highlanders lost three of those conference games in overtime. Convert those overtime losses to wins, and Cairn University would have comfortably qualified for the CSAC playoffs. The question with this team remains: Will they be able to close out games late, especially in overtime?
The 2017 roster has very few, if any, blemishes in it especially in the starting nine. Starting with the Defense, the Highlanders boast one of the strongest back ends in the CSAC. 2nd team All CSAC selection Tyler Smith and senior Kenny Mercadante will lead the back end for the Highlanders, while sophomore Jared Lanchack and senior Matt Bergmaier will also contribute starter type minutes for the Highlanders.
The offense is equally as talented. Replacing players such as Connor Eby and Corey Nolan will be a task, but one that is doable given the strength of the 2017 roster. Starting with the midfielders, Brett Kikendall has already established himself as one of the pristine goal scorers in the conference, netting two goals in one of the Highlanders most recent games against Wilson College. On top of that, Paul Franco and Joey Weaver have each shown ability to shine under the spotlight as well; Weaver’s game tying goal last year against Lancaster Bible College in the 83rd minute will attest to that. The Highlanders will run four forwards under the 4-2-3-1 formation of 4th-year head coach Luke Gibson. Outside of sophomore Brendan Keller, who has proven to be one of the Highlanders most dynamic players in his young career here at Cairn University, the forward spots should fluctuate between a plethora of players. It appears senior Brady Dorman will get the call here in the early going, but that could change rather quickly, as sophomore John Michael Redding and Reagan Lam will vie for minutes as well.
Replacing Mark Heater will be no small task, but the Highlanders boast three young goalkeepers ready to follow his example. Given the question mark surrounding the keeper position, there is no single player in line to replace Heater. While it appears that Grant Grogan, the oldest of the three, will get the first crack early on in the season, freshmen Micah Crutchfield and Colin Baker will surely get their fair share of looks as well as the season continues.
Highlander soccer is clearly on the rise, and if the Highlanders can find a way to close games late in convincing fashion, they could find themselves notching a CSAC playoff berth by the end of the season.