2014 Men's Soccer
Bluffton sports depth and experience on the pitch
August 14, 2014
With the 2014 season rapidly approaching, the Bluffton men’s soccer team will rely on its experience and depth as it prepares for another exciting campaign on the pitch. A squad that includes 13 juniors and seniors, the Beavers are primed to leave it all on the field after battling through a 2013 season in which victories struggled to maintain pace with the effort.
Depth at all key positions has improved, most notably at keeper where four talented goal stoppers will be tasked with keeping opponents out of the net. Athleticism across the board and team speed are also strengths of the 2014 Beavers as Bluffton will put pressure on the defense thanks to a group of fleet-footed attackers. Coach Nussbaum has been impressed with the work ethic his team has displayed recently, stating, “This unit has accepted the challenges we gave them. They have worked hard both in the weight room and on the field in an effort to maximize their talents and I look forward to their continued maturation this season.”
The addition of a dozen freshmen will bolster an already experienced lineup as practices stay intense thanks to the quality depth Bluffton has developed. Keeping players fresh is imperative as Coach Nussbaum has put together a demanding 19-match schedule for 2014. Trips to Wabash, Mount Union and Waynesburg along with home matches against Thomas More and Wittenberg highlight the September non-conference slate. Bluffton opens Heartland Conference play at Hanover on Oct. 4 and goes to rival Defiance College on Oct. 22 before wrapping up the season at Rose-Hulman on Nov. 1. In between, the Beavers host HCAC foes Earlham, Manchester, Franklin, Transylvania and Mount St. Joseph during a span of just 19 days from Oct. 11-29.
Four-year starter Jordan Andrews (Clinton Township, Mich./Chippewa Valley) and fellow senior Caleb Berlon (Kettering/Fairmont) will provide leadership on the pitch in 2014, Andrews in the midfield and Berlon as an outside back. Seniors Peter Carlson (Toledo/Springfield) and T.J. Kline (Mogodore) combined for 11 points a season ago as Carlson found the back of the net three times, while Kline chipped in with a goal and two assists. Carlson is always a threat as a flanker and Kline is a target up front with the strength and skill to maintain possession. Senior Ben Knotts (Carrollton), a talented center mid-fielder, added five points (one goal and three assists) in 2013.
A deep class of juniors will be counted on for quality minutes after being heavily involved during their first two years at Bluffton. One of just five Beavers to start all 16 matches for Bluffton last season, Ryan Johnson-Evers (Muskego, WI/Muskego) was an important cog in a Bluffton defense that allowed eight fewer goals in 2013 than it did in 2012. He is a two-time All-HCAC honoree thanks to his work at center back. A dangerous group of junior attackers includes Adrian Ramirez (Archbold), Jake Headings (Cincinnati/McNicholas), John Eckenrode (Northwood/Millbury Lake) and Blake Drewes (Archbold), a two-sport standout who transferred to Bluffton a year ago and made an impact both on the pitch in the fall and on the track last spring. Daniel Mushangwe (Harare, Zimbabwe) adds to Bluffton’s depth in the midfield after seeing action with the junior varsity team last season. Michael Ralph (Mansfield/Christian) battled injuries in 2013 after a freshman campaign in which he gained valuable experience as a defender.
Three returning sophomores were significant contributors on the field a season ago, led by leading scorer Grant Stutzman (Berlin/Hiland) who topped Bluffton with 10 points on four goals and two assists. Stutzman has great speed and as he sharpens his timing and gets stronger with the ball, he will be an even greater threat up front. Josh Carmack (Miamisburg) saw his time increase throughout the season as he developed into a rock solid center back. Incoming freshman Braxton Mullett (Berlin/Hiland) has the athleticism to make an impact at center back when the Beavers take the pitch in 2014. Sophomores Cam Stutzman (Berlin/Hiland) and Zak Kornhaus (Fredricksburg/Hiland) and gained valuable experience with the junior varsity team last season.
One of four keepers who look to duke it out for time between the pipes, Matt Hardman-Zimmerman (Forest City, PA) racked up 48 saves in eight starts as a freshman. Jeff Yoder (Goshen, Ind./Bethany Christian) returns to Bluffton after starting all 16 contests for the Beavers in 2012. Junior Chris Wagler (Leipsic/Pandora-Gilboa) sparked Bluffton with a 2.51 goals against average and 40 saves in 10 contests a year ago. Freshman Nate Otto (Orrville/Central Christian) will add to Bluffton’s depth in goal as he joins the squad this fall.
Three straight road matches to open the season will test the Beavers, but with four of their next five contests at home, Bluffton will get a chance to gain some traction heading into the Heartland Conference slate. Developing legitimate goal-scoring threats will be key as the Beavers look to take pressure off the defense after being limited to 13 scores a season ago. A deep contingent of freshman along with returning experience has Coach Nussbaum and his team excited to take the field in a few short weeks. Come out and support the Beavers as they hit the pitch in 2014!