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SEASON PREVIEW: SPARTANS LOOK TO RETURN TO POST-SEASON PARADE

SEASON PREVIEW: SPARTANS LOOK TO RETURN TO POST-SEASON PARADE

LANGLEY, British Columbia – After spending the last two years on the outside of the playoffs looking in, the Trinity Western men’s soccer team has its sights set on making a return to the post-season this year, as a young Spartans roster looks to reestablish a winning tradition in Langley.

The Spartans open their season this weekend on the road against Thompson Rivers (Friday) and UBC Okanagan (Saturday) before returning home to host Victoria Sept. 18 and UBC Sept. 19.

2015 MEN’S SOCCER SEASON PREVIEW
 
2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 3-6-3
2014-15 CW Playoff Record: NA
2014-15 Overall Record: 3-6-3
 
Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: 2007/3
Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: NA/0
 
Number of New Players: 10
Key Recruits: Vaggeli Boucas (D/Langley, BC/DW Poppy SS), Dominic Poletto (M/Calgary/Notre Dame HS)
 
Number of departing players: 12
Key Losses: Evan Lowther (GK/5), Jordan Whitehead (D/5), Mitchell Rohla (M/5), Cam Parkes M/3), Dominic Reinold (F/2)
 
Coach Quote
“I think from top to bottom, we’re stronger than we have been in quite some time,” said coach Pat Rohla. “I think, with this year’s team, you’ll see more of an attacking prowess and while we may not have the experience that we had last year, I think what we do have is a cohesive unit that is already coming together well as a group.

“We’re going to have to be patient with young players and continue to build and bring them along. But they’re a hard-working and honest group that really wants something. I think if we can get on the same page and stay on the same page in moments of crisis, this team has great potential.”
 
Season Storylines
•    With 10 new players in the lineup and as many as 12 players from last year’s roster no longer with the team, the Spartans will take a young squad into the 2015 campaign. Much of the Spartans success will be determined by the youngsters’ ability to adapt and flourish as newly-minted starters at the Canada West level.

•    Captain and four-time Canada West all-star Brayden Gant will once again be the leader of this team. As a central midfielder, everything goes through Gant and as long as he stays healthy – something that has been an issue for him at times over his TWU career – he will be a solidifying force for the Spartans.

•    With the graduation of goalie Evan Lowther, Andrew Hicks will take over in the starting duties in net. In his fourth year with TWU, the 6-foot-2 Hicks will be expected to lead from the back and maintain what has long been a strength of the Spartans. His performance will likely prove vital as this young teams works to gel as a unit early on.

•    First-year defender Vaggeli Boucas has come into training camp this year exactly as advertised. The former Whitecaps FC Residency player came to TWU with a strong résumé and so far he has lived up to the lofty expectations. He’ll be a key piece on the Spartans back line and fans should be excited to watch the local product blossom.

•    Can TWU avoid the injury bug? That is the question. Over the last two years especially, the Spartans have been ravaged by injuries. Simply remaining healthy this year will go a long way to a successful season.

•    The last time TWU made the playoffs was in 2012. Following two years on the outside, the Spartans are looking to get back to the dance and start working their way back to the glory days in the late 2000s when they consistently qualified for the national championship. With a young core, this year could be the start of something special.

Forwards
The Spartans will be led up front by fifth-year Jarvis Ambaka, along with a combination of second-years Vito Poletto and Leighton Johnson, third-year Mitchell Urzinger and first-year Dominic Poletto. Fellow first-year Cody Franson has also shown well early in camp and could be one to watch in the offensive foray.

Midfielders
Gant will run the midfield, but he’ll joined by a swath of individuals competing for spots including Elijah Adekugbe, Elie Gindo, Matthew Roxburgh and Joel Waterman.

Defenders
Defensively, the Spartans Taylor Johnson and Kalem Scott return to the back line and they’ll be joined by first-year Boucas and likely third-year Matt Kasteel.

Goalkeepers
In net, Hicks is expected to shoulder the load this year. He backed up Evan Lowther for the last two years and now is his time.