If there is one thing that distinguishes the University of Dallas men’s soccer team from the rest of the athletic teams at UD, it would probably be stability. This comes both from head coach David Hoffman, who is entering his 15th season patrolling the sidelines for the Crusaders, and from consistent recruiting classes that have constantly replenished the roster.
While the Crusaders must replace starters Ben Mannings, Barton Holdridge, Tommy Byrd and Tino Gamueda, as well as regular contributor Austin Strain, UD has a plethora of talent coming from its underclassmen.
The key piece for the Crusaders is returning captain and leading scorer Luke Schwarz. The midfielder led the Crusaders with 17 points a year ago and was voted the MVP by his teammates.
In addition to Schwarz, senior Jake Schnell and juniors Eric Haigh, Andrew Ciancone and Sean Taylor all were consistent starters a year ago. Sophomore forwards Chima Ogueri and Hunter Haugland should also play big roles this season.
The biggest question for the Crusaders will be in goal. The team loses senior Tino Gamueda, who ranks fourth in school history in shutouts, saves and goals against average.
Currently, the team has just two goalkeepers listed on the roster: freshmen Caleb Strange and Sean Carlin. Those two will likely be key to the Crusaders success or failure this year.
The defense in front of them is experienced with Taylor, Haigh and Schnell, but somewhat thin, as no one behind them has logged significant time before. However, the Crusaders will welcome the return of junior midfielder/defender A.J. Zaugg, who took the fall semester off in 2016, but played in all 18 games the year before, starting three.
“We defended well last year with several shutouts especially towards the end of the year so our back line was not the problem,” Schwarz said.
Offensively the team will likely rely on Schwarz and Ogueri.
Schwarz led the team in points last season and has an absurdly accurate shot. The senior hit the net on 19 of his 27 shot attempts last season and took all five of the Crusaders penalty kicks, scoring on all five as well.
Despite starting just 11 of the 19 games last season, Ogueri finished third on the team in points as a freshman, and will look to take on an even bigger role this year with the loss of Holdridge.
“We need to score goals,” Schwarz said. “We have a lot of new talent up top so I’m looking forward to see how it translates into the games.”
“(Both) offensively and defensively corners and free kicks are a key for us,” Schnell said, saying a good goal for the team would be to stop conceding goals in those situations and converting around half of their own special teams opportunities.
The Crusaders finished 7-9-3 overall last season with a 4-8-2 conference record. They lost to Texas Lutheran on penalty kicks in the first round of the SCAC tournament.
This year the UD will be hosting the SCAC tournament, giving them both an automatic bid and home field advantage.
“Obviously our main goal is to win every game, but for sure the main one is to not lose at home and see if we can beat Trinity,” Schnell said.
The Crusaders clearly have the talent to be successful as they did last year, but in 2016 the Crusaders were 1-5 in one-goal games. If the team can turn those games into more ties and wins, they have a great chance to compete at the top of the SCAC.
“The number one goal is to make the tournament and win the first round game,” Schwarz said. “We’ve made the tournament the past three years but went out in the first round so winning that first round game is a must.”