|School: Bowling Green State University|
|Coach: Eric Nichols – Ninth Season|
|2016 Record: 9-6-4 and 2-0-3 in conference play|
|2016 Final Season Ending National Rank: NA|
|Key Losses from 2016 Team: Forward Pat Flynn (5g, 4a), midfielders Joe Sullivan (4g, 3a) and Max Auden (1g, 1a), defender Jacob Roth (2g, 6a)|
Five Year Win Total:
2012 – 8
2013 – 6
2014 – 14
2015 – 9
2016 – 9
|2016 goals scored and goals against: 26/15|
|Key 2016 statistic: Nine different players netted a game-winning goal.|
Background: Bowling Green has continuted to improve over the past several seasons. They took a big step forward in 2016 when they secured a second place finish in MAC regular season play. BGSU was undefeated in MAC play in 2016 for the first time in twenty years.
The second place finish was the program's highest finish in conference play since the 2002 campaign. The Falcons would have won the 2016 regular season title had they defeated rather than tied Buffalo in their final regular season contest.
BGSU has a 59-54-21 record over the past seven years including a 32-21-6 mark over the past three seasons. The Falcons have advanced from a team that was once in the bottom of the MAC to a program that is now a legitimate contender.
In 2016 Eric Nichols was named the MAC Coach of the Year. Forward Pat Flynn was named a 2016 All-MAC First Team selection and to the NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region Second Team. Goalkeeper Anthony Mwembia was named an 2016 All-MAC First Team selection and a College Soccer All-Freshman selection. Defender Jacob Roth and midfielders Joe Sullivan and Tate Robertson were 2016 All-MAC Second Team members.
|Number starters returning in 2017: Eight|
Offense: The graduation of forward Pat Flynn (5g, 4a) who netted twenty-eight goals and contributed twelve assists during his three year tenure at BGSU creates some big shoes to fill on the offensive side of the ball. The Falcons also will be without the offensive punch of midfielder Joe Sullivan (4g, 3a) who had seventeen career goals and sixteen career assists during his tenure at Bowling Green.
Sophomore forward Chris Brennan (5g, 2a) is a dynamic, strong, and very capable finisher who looks to be the most likely candidate to help fill the void that exists.
Senior forward Brad Macomber (0g, 1a) who was a starter last year also returns up-top along with senior Keaton Reynolds (1g, 1a) who played in fifteen contests in 2016 and sophomore Robert Miller (2g, 4a) who appeared in eighteen matches.
Junior Tate Robertson (1g, 3a) who has been a starter for the past two seasons is a technically solid and creative playmaker who will likely set the pace in the midfield. Redshirt junior Bismark Agyeman (1g, 2a) who has two years of starting experience under his belt also figures to play a prominent role in the midfield. Junior midfielder Peter Pugliese (0,3a) who saw action in sixteen games in 2016 with nine starts is among other returning players who will likely play a greater role in 2017.
Zach Buescher from Holland, Ohio and Chris Sullivan from Naperville, Illinois are among the newcomers who are look to be well positioned to compete for minutes and to make an immediate contribution in the midfield.
Defense: The graduation of back Jacob Roth (2g, 6a) who started every contest for the past three seasons while contributing a total of twelve career goals and eighteen assists leaves a gap to plug in the defense.
However the good news is that a very solid core returns in the back including starting centerbacks senior Alexis Souahy and junior Moe Mustafa. Junior back Dominic Grida who played in fourteen games last year with eight starts should assume an even greater role in 2017.
Sophomores Tom Wrobel and Mitchell Evans are among other returning backs who will be in the hunt for additional playing time in 2017.
Sophomore Anthony Mwembia who recorded eight shutouts and had a solid 0.73 goals against average in 2016 returns between the pipes to anchor the defense for the Brown and Gold with the benefit of a year of starting experience under his belt. Mwembia led the MAC last year in both saves percentage and goals against average and ranked among the top twenty in the country in both categories.
Coach Nichols stated, "The class of 2017 is a quality class from top to bottom. We have high expectations for this class and feel that some of these guys will have an immediate impact. And, most importantly, the quality of character in this group is extremely high. All six of these guys are talented, humble and driven." Nichols added, "With the signing of this class, BGSU Men's Soccer undoubtedly took a step forward."
Zach Buescher – Midfielder – Holland, Ohio – Toledo St. John's Jesuit – All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference first team. All District. All-State. NSCAA All-American.
Erik Horvath – Defender – Naperville, Illinois – Neuqua Valley HIgh School – Played for the Sockers FC Academy.
Marshall Mast – Defender – Traverse City, Michigan – Traverse City Central HIgh School – All-District. All-Big North Conference First Team. Team Captain.
Sam Pugliese – Midfielder – Camabridge, Ontario – Jacob Hespeler Secondary School – WCSSAA Most Valuable Player as a junior. Played club for Kitchener Spirit and Givova Academy.
Chris Sullivan – Midfielder – Naperville, Illinois – Naperville North High School – NSCAA All-American. Had fifty career goals and forty-one career assists. Three-time All-Conference selection. Played club for Illinois Galaxy and Chicago Fire Juniors.
Vinny Worner – Midfielder – Copley, Ohio – Copley High School – All-Ohio First Team selection as a senior. Second Team selection as a junior. NSCAA All-America Team. Had twenty-six career goals and thirty-four career assists.
Progonis for 2017: The Falcons were picked to finish in the number five spot in the six team Mid-American Conference in the league's 2016 preseason poll. BGSU greately exceeded expectations last year when they finished second in 2016 MAC regular season play.
The Falcons only lose four seniors from the 2016 squad. However all four were major contributors and team leaders during their tenure at Bowling Green. To be sure, the explosiveness that forward Pat Flynn and his twenty-eight carrer goals brought to the pitch will be missed and not easily replaced as well as the seventeen career goals and sixteen career assists that midfielder Joe Sullivan brought to the table.
However with eight starters returning, including several key sophomores who now have the advantage of a year of playing experience under their belts, the Falcons appear to have the talent and depth on board as well as the winning mentality needed to continue to improve. All things considered, they look to be well positioned to eclipse the win total they had in 2016.
Sophomore forward Chris Brennan who came on strong as the season progressed last year has the potential to be a differnece maker and key element in the offense up-top. Junior Tate Robertson is a creative playmaker with the ability to make things happen in the midfield. Centerbacks Alexis Souahy and Moe Mustafa will anchor the backline and sophomore Anthony Mwembia should give the Falcons a solid and now experienced presence in goal.
Akron remains the alpha dog and the team to beat in the MAC heading into the 2017 season but the gap between the Zips and other conference members like Bowling Green appears to be closing.
BGSU may not be ready to capture the MAC regular season and tournament titles in 2017 but they are getting closer. What is highly likely is that Nichols will field a solid team at Bowling Green in 2017 that will be a legitimate contender in the MAC.
The Falcons should have a fighting chance of prevailing anytime they take the pitch against anyone and that should make the 2017 season a very interesting and exciting one for BGSU.