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Oakland University 2018 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  Oakland University
Conference:  Horizon League
Coach:  Eric Pogue – 10th Season
2017 Record:  6-10-1 – 3-5-1 in conference play
2017 Final Season Ending Rank:  N/A
Key Personnel Losses from the 2017 Team:  Forward Austin Ricci and defenders Wilfred Williams and Nick Strack due to graduation. 

Five Year Win Total:

2013:  7

2014:  10

2015:  10

2016:  7

2017:  6

2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed:  19 scored – 31 allowed
2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game:  1.12 goals scored – 1.82 allowed.  
2017 Key Statistic:  Thirty-one goals allowed.   

Background:  The Golden Grizzlies were 6-10-2 in 2017 with signature wins over VCU, MIchigan and Ohio State. 

Oakland joined the Horizon League in 2013 and quickly made their presence known by winning the the League Championship in 2014 and 2015 and earning back-to-back berths in the NCAA Tournament.  Before joining the Horizon League, the Golden Grizzlies were a dominant force in the Summit League securing ten conference championships and making five appearances in the NCAA Tournament (2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010). 

Forward Austin Ricci was named to the 2017 All-Horizon League First Team. Defender Nyal Higgins was a 2017 All-Horizon League Second Team selection and midfielder Noah Jensen was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team.  

Number Starters Returning in 2018:  Eight 


Dorian Barberio – Midfielder – Guebwiller, France – Played for – Lycee Joseph Storck Guebwiller – Helped Lycee Joseph Storck Guebwiller secure rive regional championships.

Alfa Barry – Defender – Paris, France – Lycee Paul Langevin – Played for Ariens SC.  

Dylan Borczak – Midfielder – Detroit, Michigan – Western International – Sophomore transfer. Helped Schoolcraft College to an NJCAA District and regional championship.  

Corentin Diverres – Midfielder – Guidel, France – University of Rennes – Junior transfer from Alabama-Huntsville.  All-South Region Team.  Guld South Conference First Team selection. 

Cameron McNeil – Defender – Rochester Hills, Michigan – De La Salle Collegiate – Sophomore transfer from Marshell where he appeared in three contests.  Played for Vardar Academy.

Vince Manzo – Forward – Washington, Michigan – Warren De La Salle – Redshirt freshman transfer from Villanova.  Played for Vardar Academy.  

Dawsun Schrum – Forward – Sterling Heights, Michigan – Stevenson – All-Region. All-State. Played for Vardar Academy. 

Luke Morrell – Defender – Plainwell, Michigan – Plainwell – First-Team All-State.  Seventy-two career goals and twenty-one assists.  Named Kalamazoo Gazette Dream Team Player of the Year.  Played for Kalamazoo Kingdom. 

Michael Teller – Midfielder – Lake Orion, Michigan – Lake Orion – Played for Vardar Development Academy.  

Cameron Wilde – Midfielder – Shelby Township, Michigan – Lutheran North – Two-time All-State selection.  All-Region.  All-District.  Netted sixty career goals at Lutheran North.  Played for Vardar Development Academy.  

Elliott Bentley – Defender – Oakham, England – Tresham – Junior transfer from Hartwick College where he started fourteen contests last year at left back.  Named to All-Sun Belt Conference First Team in 2016.  

Outlook for the 2018 Season:  

The Golden Grizzles will seek to rebound and get back into the hunt for the Horizon League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2018 after an up and down season in 2017.  The ups included impressive non-conference wins over VCU, Michigan, and Ohio State.  The downs included losses in conference play to Wright State, Cleveland State, Green Bay, UIC and Milwaukee during which Oakland scored a total of two goals while allowing twelve. 

Improvement is needed on both sides of the ball but there is reason for cautious optimism at Oakland as a solid core of players return supplemented by a recruiting class that includes several transfers with the potential to contribute immediately. 

The graduation of forward Austin Ricci (8g, 0a) who has been at the heart of the offense for the past three years creates a huge void that must be addressed on the offensive side of the ball.  Redshirt junior forward Nebojsa Popovic (4g, 6a) who has been a starter for the past two seasons is the most likely candidate to fill the gap.  Redshirt junior Travis Harrington (0g, 1a) who appeared in thirteen contests last year and redshirt sophomore Kaveon Dux who saw action in seven games are among other returning forwards.

Sophomore Noah Jensen (0g, 3a) who had an impressive freshman season, senior Jacob Moore (2g, 0a), junior Spencer Nolff and redshirt sophomore Evan Sawula (0g, 1a) are among returning midfielders who were starters last year.  Junior Corentin Diverres who transfers in from Division II Alabama-Huntsville and sophomore transfer Dylan Borczak are among several members of the recruiting class who should strengthen the midfield and add additional punch to the attack.  The ability of the midfielders to add an additional dimesion to the offense and control the tempo of the game looks to be among the critical success factors for the Golden Grizzlies in 2018.

The opportunity for improvement exists on defensive side of the ball as reflected in the fact that Oakland allowed a total of thirty-one goals last year while scoring nineteen.  That ratio must change in order for the Golden Grizzlies to up their win total in 2018. 

Some reloading is required on the defensive side of the ball due to the graduation of backs Wilfred Williams who was a two-year starter and captain Nick Strack who was a three-year starter.  The good news is that a solid group of defenders returns led by junior Nyal Higgins (2g, 0a) who was an All-Horizon League Second Team selection last year. Juniors Adam Giorgio and A.J. Shaw are among other returning backs who now have the advantage of an additional year of experience under their belts.  Junior transfer Elliott Bentley from Hartwick is among the members of the recruiting class who should contribute immediately. 

Last year there was a revolving door of sorts in goal.  Three different netminders saw significant playing time in goal.  Redshirt sophomore Sullivan Lauderdale who played in six contests with four starts and junior Liam McQueenie who started four contests return in goal in 2018.   

Oakland is a program with a winning culture that has tasted success in the past. Nonetheless they they will enter the 2018 season with question marks on both sides of the ball. 

The roster has talent and experience but there are gaps to plug.  Whether or not improvement occurs in 2018 will hinge on the development of a more balanced attack, the emergence of a few difference-makers who will set the pace, and the elimination of the defensive deficiencies.   

Posted in 2018 Team Reviews

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