The Fort Lewis College men’s soccer team has finally found its rhythm, and a large part of that is because of its senior class, head coach Dave Oberholtzer said after Saturday’s annual alumnus game at Dirk’s Field.
“I think it’s been really fun for these seniors because we’ve been in this transition process now, and I think we’re really hitting our stride at this point,” Oberholtzer said. “All of those guys have played a major role in getting us there, and so I’m really happy to see all of them playing well.”
The senior leadership was evident from the opening whistle in Saturday’s 4-1 victory against the alumni team. Coleman Kane scored two goals in the second half, and fellow senior winger Steen Shober flew down the left flanks and out-hustled defenders to 50-50 balls.
The Skyhawks will rely on more than its seniors this season, as sophomore forward Ryan Lee and junior defender Marshall Metzger are also expected to play critical roles in the months to come.
“I am optimistic,” Kane said. “I don’t want to make any predictions, but the way we’ve been practicing, it’s been a good sign. Our focus is next Saturday, and that’s it. We’re heading down to Texas, and that’s step one.”
The Skyhawks will look to build off of last year’s success in the RMAC, as they were picked to finish third in the conference in the preseason poll. Finding the back of the net was one of the Skyhawks’ biggest assets in 2017, as they scored 28 times and gave up only 17 goals.
The Skyhawks returned all three of the team’s leading scorers from last season, including sophomores Landon Gibson and Max Fuentes Carrera. The addition of fellow striker Bar Hazut, a freshman from Israel, has brought pace and power. Hazut scored from a volley Saturday afternoon.
“Our biggest thing is playing simple, and the work ethic has to be good,” Kane said. “I think that, if we can play simple and everybody’s working hard, I think good things will come for sure.”
One area of concern for the Skyhawks could be at the goalkeeper position, as sophomore Peter Bryne, who was named the team’s most valuable player last season, will miss significant time because of injury. His replacement during the exhibition games has been freshman Ventura Salcido.
Byrne, only a sophomore, will be missed, as he started all 20 games for the Skyhawks last year. He was named honorable mention to the RMAC team and was tops in the conference in saves and save percentage.
While the goalkeeper situation will be challenging, one area where the Skyhawks will not have to worry about will be the midfield. With players such as Shober and Landon and reserves such as sophomore transfer Hakeem Rabiu, it will be the area of the park that Fort Lewis will look to exploit the most.
“We are looking forward to the midfield being a key spot on the field this year,” Oberholtzer said. “We really don’t have any expectations in terms of the end result, but I think that if we stick to the process and plan in place, hopefully we’ll have a fun and exciting year.”
The Skyhawks will play their first game of the season at 7 p.m. Saturday at Texas-Permian Basin.