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PREVIEW: Men's soccer continues move up OAC ladder

August 23, 2013

The Wilmington College men’s soccer team is looking to continue their move back up the Ohio Athletic Conference ladder, and 2013 could be the year.

“I’m very excited about the fall season as we return a veteran team that competed very well in 2012,” said Wilmington head coach Bud Lewis. “I expect that the OAC soccer programs will again be one of the most competitive conferences top to bottom in the country. We were disappointed with not going further in the OAC tournament last fall, but we gained some valuable experience at all positions and with several exciting recruits, we are hopeful to improve our play and compete for the OAC championship and the NCAA tournament. We struggled at the beginning of our season last fall and I know our players will be prepared to give a better performance in our early season tournaments and pre-conference matches that will prepare us for the grueling OAC conference schedule.”

Junior Dan Wicks (Reading, OH/Reading), who earned All-OAC honors last season, returns after leading the team with five goals, four game-winners, and six assists. Wicks is joined in the midfield by junior Evan Schlagetter (Sidney, OH/Sidney), who appeared in 17 games with 16 starts.

While Wicks and Schlagetter bring the experience, Lewis is excited about the potential of the rest of the group. Junior Taylor Estes (Reading, OH/Reading) and sophomore Ethan Zimpfer (Botkins, OH/Botkins) are expected to be fully recovered for the start of the season, but there are a host of rookies nipping at their heels.

Freshmen Pablo Martinez (Clarksville, TN/Northeast), Albin Blomberg (Oreboro, Sweden/Virgin Smelar) and Marcus Tornberg (Stockholm, Sweden/Hersby Gymnasium) are all capable in diversifying the Wilmington midfield.

“Our midfield is going to create more attacking plays,” said Lewis. “Midfield play maybe one of our strongest aspects. We have three players with a lot of midfield experience led by Wicks and Schlagetter. Both of those players are ready to go.”

Junior Alex Ruckman (Monroe, OH/Monroe) and freshman Alec Rivers (Ross, OH/Ross) could challenge for minutes in the midfield.

With the midfield adding an extra dimension to the offense, a bulk of the scoring load will still fall on the forwards. Northern Kentucky University transfer Nick Toney (Morrow, OH/Little Miami) brings the composure near the net that the Quakers sometimes lack last season. Toney played in 18 games with eight starts for the Division I Norse.

Getting senior Erik Hammar (Stockholm, Sweden/Ava Gymnasium) back to his goal-scoring form could be a huge benefit for Wilmington. He scored three goals in four games before suffering an injury in 2010, then scoring eight goals as a sophomore in another injury-plagued season. He added three goals a season ago.

“We need to be more dangerous in the final third, and one of the ways to do that is increase the number of players in the penalty area or around the goal when you are attacking,” said Lewis. “I think collectively we will be very effective bringing the ball up, possessing and getting numbers in the box. We were hopeful for the resurgence of Erik Hammar to be somewhat like he was a couple of years ago.”

Freshman Sam Bickel (Bremen, IN/Bremen) could factor in the forward rotation, along with Martinez.

Additionally, all-region selections Henrik Hornnaess (Brumunddal, Norway/Hamar Katerdralskole) and Martin Holmquist (Karlstad, Sweden/Alvkulle Gymnasiet) are back for their senior and junior seasons, respectively.

Hornnaess led the team with nine assists, mainly due to his ability to serve the ball of set pieces. Both are key components to the WC defense.

Despite the presence of two all-region honorees, WC’s success could hinge on junior Drew Fields (Mariemont, OH/Mariemont).

“Drew Fields is going to be key to our success this year,” said Lewis. “One of our best players on attacking set pieces, he can play anyone of the positions in the back and wing midfield, so he is really a very versatile player in both the attacking and defensive roles. I expect him to have a breakout year for us.”

The center back position is one of the few wide-open positions with Fields probably getting the first crack at stabilizing the middle. Cincinnati State transfer Brandon Klepach (Centerville, OH/Centerville) will also have a role in the back third, along with sophomore Jesse Buhrman (Westlake, OH/Westlake).

Senior Caleb Betz (Circleville, OH/Logan Elm), junior Taylor Henderson (Cincinnati, OH/Mariemont) and junior Ben McMahon (Loveland, OH/Little Miami) along with freshmen Alex Saunders (Lewis Center, OH/Olentangy), Aaron Basford (Monroe, OH/Monroe) and Stijn Van Wezel (Miller City, OH/Miller City-New Cleveland) will all push for minutes in the defensive rotation.

Senior goalkeeper Anton Niklasson (Ockero, Sweden/Frolundagymnasiet) has the inside track on claiming the starting job after playing in four games with two starts. He posted a goals against average of 0.96 and a save percentage of .733. However, Niklasson is coming off an injury. Should Niklasson not be ready for the start of the season, junior Tim Wiederhold (Fayetteville, OH/Wilmington) and freshmen Nick Baker (Indianapolis, IN/Decatur Central) will have to step in.

During the Lewis era, the Quakers have always challenged themselves with five NCAA tournaments teams – Rochester, Transylvania, Centre, Thomas More and national runner up Ohio Northern – all on the schedule.