BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Birmingham-Southern men's soccer team is young, but hungry this season. After returning only two starters a couple years ago, the Panthers roster is overflowing with talent ready to contribute.
"I am excited about our solid recruiting class," said Head Coach Greg Vinson. "It is balanced in terms of addressing our needs of scoring more goals, solidifying our midfield, and strengthening our defense."
The Panthers are poised to increase their scoring potential with several experienced returning players and a batch of newcomers. Senior Brother Swagler (2017: 16 games, two goals, one assist, five points) and junior Jackson Lynn (2017: 16 games, one goal, two assists, four points) bring the most experience from the 2017 campaign and will be relied on heavily this season. Sophomores Will Gannaway (2017: 12 games, one goal, one assist, three points), Corby Groark (2017: 15 games, one goal, two points), Sam Kyle (2017: 11 games), and Carson Shields (2017: 14 games, one goal, two points), all gained valuable experience on a young 2017 squad. These forwards will be joined by freshmen Christian Hernandez (Ft. Payne, Ala./Ft. Payne HS), Zachery Robinson (Newnan, Ga./The Heritage School), and Max Sager (Baton Rouge, La./Runnels HS).
The Panthers return key midfielder and leading scorer junior captain Ryan Hepp (2017: 15 games, five goals, 10 points, All-SAA) along with sophomores Noah Eisenberg (2017: eight games) and J.T. Peifer (2017: 12 games). Joining these returners are sophomore Victor Perez (Birmingham, Ala./Oak Mt. HS), and freshmen Ryo Elliott (Okinawa-ken, Japan) and Brandon Robinson (Harvest, Ala./Sparkman HS).
The Panther back line that only allowed 19 goals in 2017 for a 1.15 goals against average, returns several players anchored by senior captains Brett Feringa (2017: 16 games, three assists, three points) and Luke Hambleton (2017: 15 games, four assists, four points, All-SAA). Also bringing signification experience into this season are juniors Parker Sturm (2017: 15 games) and Jason Webb (2017: six games), as well as sophomores Brady Brannon (2017: four games), Andrew Duffey (2017: nine games), Matthew Lansdell (2017: 13 games), and Terry Joe Mosko (2017: one game). Newcomers joining the defense are junior transfer Colby Bogle (Tupelo, Miss./Itawamba CC) and Rafael Millan (Ft. Payne, Ala./Ft. Payne HS).
The Panthers return senior captain Galen Curry (2017: 14 games, 1.07 GAA, All-SAA), who was nationally ranked in five NCAA stat categories, anchoring the goal. Also returning is junior Kurt Moore (2017: one game, GAA 0.00) who spent time playing with the Birmingham Hammers of the PDL this summer. Senior goalkeeper William Meehan will be joined by his newcomer freshman brother Michael Meehan (Huntsville, Ala./Huntsville HS).
The Panthers open 2018 at home with the annual BSC Labor Day Classic. They face Cal Lutheran in the season opener Friday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. and then take on Ozarks (Ark.) on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 1:30 p.m. After battling a tough regional schedule, BSC starts Southern Athletic Association play at home against Hendrix College on Saturday, Sept. 22. The 2018 SAA Tournament starts with quarterfinals on October 27 and semifinals on November 2. The championship match will be played at the highest remaining seed on Sunday, Nov. 4.
"We play three teams that reached the national tournament last year," said Vinson. "We open with Cal Lutheran and then face Emory University, who made it to the NCAA Elite Eight, and Oglethorpe University, who advanced to the NCAA second round in 2017. Our schedule is packed with great competition to prepare us to win the SAA conference tournament and advance to the national tournament, which is always our goal."