BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The 2017 Birmingham-Southern College men's soccer team will contend for a Southern Athletic Association championship with an experienced core of returning players and a fresh batch of newcomers. "We graduated ten players from our 2016 squad, but we have seven seniors on the 2017 team that are poised to provide the leadership we need to win a championship," said Head Coach Greg Vinson. Entering his second year at the helm, Vinson's 2016 record of 9-6-1 is the program's 23rd winning season in its 34 years of intercollegiate competition.
"We are excited about our 16 returning players being joined by 13 newcomers," added Vinson. "While we graduated a great group of seniors, our returners all garnered substantial playing time to prepare them for 2017, and they are ready to take the reins."
The Panthers have three SAA All-Conference Team selections returning (first team Galen Curry, second team Team Tylan Jones, and Honorable Mention Brother Swagler) as well as a solid schedule to prepare the team to make their run on the conference championship.
The Panthers will rely on several players on the top line to score goals offensively and also apply initial pressure defensively. Junior Brother Swagler (2016: 16 games, three goals, three assists, nine points) and sophomore Jackson Lynn (2016: 16 games, three goals, three assists, nine points) both played as wide attackers and enter the 2017 season as leading returning goal scorers and point leaders. Senior center forwards Adam Clausen (2016: 15 games, one goal, two points) and Bryant Hamby (2016: 6 games) aim to be formidable forces as target players. These forwards will be joined by freshmen Andrew Duffey (Nashville, Tenn./Montgomery Bell Academy), Will Gannaway (Decatur, Ala./Decatur HS), Corby Groark (Huntsville, Ala./St. John Paul II), Sam Kyle (Homewood, Ala./Homewood HS) and T.J. Mosko (Nassau Bahamas/Darlington Academy), as well as BSC junior Omar Hamid (Hoover, Ala/Spain Park HS).
The Panthers return key midfielders who were instrumental to the success of the 2016 season. Senior Trey O'Bryant (2016: 13 games, five assists, five points) led the team in assists from the interior midfield. He is joined by senior Alec Medd (2016: 15 games), senior Colin Matthaei (2016: 10 games), and sophomore Ryan Hepp (16 games). Adding depth to BSC's midfield possession engine are freshmen Noah Eisenberg (Montreal, Canada/St. George HS and Tilton Prep School), and J.T. Peifer (Montgomery, Ala./St. James School).
A stingy Panther back line returns junior Tylan Jones (2016: 16 games, three goals, two assists, eight points) who spent time at defensive midfield position last season; junior Luke Hambleton (2016:14 games, one goal, two points), who was a steady constant at center back; junior Brett Feringa (2016: 12 games), who provides a strong defensive presence with the ability to slide up the flank offensively; and sophomore Parker Sturm (2016: three games), who saw time at center back, outside back, and outside mid/forward. These veteran defenders will be joined by freshmen Brady Brannon (Homewood, Ala./Homewood HS), Matthew Lansdell (Huntsville, Ala./Huntsville HS), Henry Sanders (Franklin, Tenn./Battle Ground Academy), and sophomore transfer Jason Webb (Birmingham, Ala./Oak Mountain HS, Huntingdon College).
With all four Panther goalkeepers returning for the 2017 campaign, experience will anchor the BSC defense. Junior SAA All-Conference First Team selection Galen Curry (2016: eight games, eight starts, 1.08 GAA), senior Marvin Castellanos (2016: seven games, six starts, 1.66 GAA), junior William Meehan (2016; three games, 2.37 GAA), and sophomore Kurt Moore (2016: two games, two starts, 0.00 GAA) will tend the nets again this season. Assistant coach and goalkeeper coach Joe Nasco enters his second season on the BSC staff. "I am very excited to have all four goalkeepers returning for 2017," said Nasco. "These four bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and competition to the team and goalkeeper position. I'm ready to train these guys and watch them push for playing time."
The Panthers will be tested early with an opening day matchup again Randolph College on September 1 and Guilford College on September 2 in the BSC Labor Day Classic. The Panthers then travel to take on in-state rival, Huntingdon College in a mid-week game, followed by a tough away tournament at Berry College where BSC faces Transylvania University and Hampden Sydney College on September 9 and 10. The Panthers round their out of conference play with Belhaven University at home, mid-week on September 13, on the road at Emory University on September 16 and away against the Owls of MUW on September 24. SAA play fills the second half of the schedule with BSC traveling to Hendrix College on September 23, Berry College on October 13, Oglethorpe University on October 15, and Millsaps on October 21. At home the Panthers will host Rhodes College on September 30, Sewanee on October 6, Centre College on October 8.
The SAA Tournament will pit high and low seeds in the first round on October 28 followed by a Final Four weekend at the remaining highest seeded team. "The conference tournament champion receives an automatic berth into the NCAA National Tournament, so our goal, as always, is to win the conference championship and add to the storied legacy of our BSC men's soccer program," said Vinson.