CORVALLIS – The Oregon State men's soccer team began its bid for back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances today when the Beavers opened practice for the 2015 campaign.
“Everybody came in prepared, and that helped a lot,” said head coach Steve Simmons. “This was a great first step. Spirits are good and the guys are really excited.”
The Beavers return a great deal of talent, including a pair of sophomore forwards that earned valuable experience with the team last season. Timmy Mueller was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year last year after netting a team-high 11 goals in 2014. Jordan Jones will join Mueller up front, and is coming off a campaign that saw him score eight goals, including the game-winner in the team's NCAA Tournament match against Denver.
The duo will look for service from senior midfielder Mikhail Doholis, who will look to end his career on a high note after seeing the field in 56 of OSU's 57 contests over the past three seasons. He will be joined by junior Devonte Small, who will look to continue building on a 12-point year (4 goals, 4 assists). The midfield pairing of senior Phillip van Berkom and sophomore Graham Smith combined to patrol the center of the park last season, and will aim for similar results in the upcoming campaign. Both players provided defensive quality for the Beavers last year, while also aiding in the attack.
“We came out for the first day of practice fit and sharp,” Doholis said. “Everybody had a good mentality, and we're excited to keep going.”
Redshirt-sophomore Jalen Markey returns to the Beavers' central defense, after joining the squad as a transfer from North Carolina in 2014. Sophomore Sam Tweeton will look for an expanded role at centerback after making seven starts a year ago. Redshirt-junior Zach Striar started all 10 games he played in 2014, playing fullback on both sides of the field.
In goal will be sophomore Nolan Wirth, who was impressive in his five appearances last season, allowing just 0.67 goals per game.
The Beavers will face a tough test right out of the gate, when they host Marquette in their season-opener on Aug. 28 at Paul Lorenz Field. The slate will not get easier from there, as Oregon State hosts Michigan State on Aug. 30.
“Everybody is itching to get the season started,” Simmons said. “Guys have been off playing with other teams in the summer, and the new players are ready to get a taste. We've got a lot of new players, so the goal is to get on the same page right now. That's the mission for this preseason.”