The Shawnee State University men’s soccer program will play 18 games, with nine home and nine away dates — including matchups with No. 18-ranked Lindsey Wilson and new Mid-South Conference member Thomas More — in an official schedule release that was made public by head coach Ron Goodson.
Shawnee State, who made its second-biggest win jump in program history by jumping from a 2-17 mark in 2017 to a 7-12 mark last season, will have an opportunity to make another sizeable move in 2019 as the Bears, who will enter their 30th year of competition, return 13 players who started at least five or more games in 2019, including eight that started in 10 or more contests throughout the year.
With the returning production in mind, along with a schedule that will feature diverse opponents and challenges along the way, the excitement and overall expectations for forward movement are certainly high, according to Goodson.
“We are very excited about the 2019 season,” SSU head coach Ron Goodson said. “We have a very competitive and balanced schedule with nine home and nine away games. We will being playing four out of our first five on the road, however, which will be a challenge for us. That will be a crucial stretch. The Mid-South will be strong, as it usually is, and we believe that our non-conference opponents will test us in a manner that will have us ready for the grind that awaits in the MSC.”
In addition to returning Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year Kevin de Lange, who tallied 14 goals and six assists en route to an outstanding 34-point season in 2018, the Bears also return standout goalkeeper Kade Tomlinson, a two-sport student-athlete at SSU who posted 132 saves and a solid 2.35 goals against average in his initial campaign for the Bears last fall. Multi-year contributor Bryce Romanello — who has posted 16 goals and four assists over his career at SSU as a three-year starter — returns along with fellow area natives Alek Blevins and Shane Zimmerman. Romanello, along with another area standout in Aaron Keyser, comprise two of the four student-athletes in the senior class, with Chris Jones and Hunter Miles also bringing their talents back into the fold for what will be their final year donning the Blue and White. Mitchell Patchett, Michael Rose, and Minford native Jacob Perry are among the additional returnees for Shawnee State, who will only have to replace three outgoing seniors — Caspar Nolte, Aaron Mazurkiewicz, and Caleb Roof.
Schedule-wise, the only home game among the Bears’ first five contests will take place in a bout that will be played under the lights at Shawnee Turf, when Shawnee State takes on Concordia (Mich.) at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, which will be among the seven home affairs that will be played at dusk. Outside of that affair, the additional four contests will have the Bears hitting the road, with their season opener, a Saturday, Aug. 24, 5 p.m. kickoff against Indiana University-East, along with trips to Midway (Ky.) at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 2, Ohio Christian at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and Bluffton at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, bookending the lone game at Shawnee Turf.
However, following that stretch, Shawnee State has a possible segway toward a strong finish as four of the next five games following their trip to Bluffton — and six of eight — will be played at Shawnee Turf from Sept. 11 to Oct. 12. This includes a matchup with West Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. — a unit that went 14-2-4 last season — three consecutive home matchups from Sept. 16 to Sept. 21 against Lourdes (5 p.m.), Asbury (Ky.), and Cincinnati Christian — with the latter pair of games starting at 7 p.m., respectively.
The Bears, who start the month of October by playing their first Mid-South Conference contest on the road against Campbellsville at 3 p.m. EST, will play back-to-back home games against conference foes in No. 18 Lindsey Wilson (Oct. 8, 7 p.m.) and Cumberland (Tenn.), with the latter of which serving as part of Shawnee State’s Homecoming festivities on Oct. 12 (3 p.m. start). Shawnee State’s final five contests will see the Bears hit the road for three straight Mid-South Conference battles over a 10-day stretch as SSU travels to play Georgetown (Ky.) and Thomas More (Oct. 16 and Oct. 19, 7 p.m. starts each) and Pikeville (Oct. 26, 3 p.m.) before concluding its regular season with two additional conference matchups across a three-day stretch against Life (Ga.) and Cumberlands (Ky.) on Tuesday, Oct. 30 and Thursday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively, with the latter affair serving as Senior Night for Shawnee State.
Going forward, the Mid-South Conference Tournament slate is set to begin on Friday, Nov. 8 with the MSC Tournament Quarterfinals in Bowling Green, Ky. The MSC Conference Tournament Semifinals and Finals are scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 14, and Friday, Nov. 15, in Bowling Green.
If SSU wins the MSC Tournament Championship or obtains an at-large berth, the NAIA Opening Round contest will be played on Saturday, Nov. 23 at host campus sites. The NAIA National Tournament is scheduled to run from Monday, Dec. 2 to Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Orange County Great Park Soccer Stadium in Irvine, California.
With the returnees that Shawnee State has, along with a touted recruiting class that features local high school standouts in Victor Aguilera and Cameron Llewellyn, Tiffin University transfer Eli Maurer, and Netherlands natives Thomas de Graauw and Mark de Graaf among the additional talents coming in, the goal is to play deep into the fall.
“Our goal is to improve on last year’s record, and to compete to be one of the top teams in the conference,” Goodson said. “We have a great group of guys returning and what we feel is our best recruiting class that we have ever had.”
For more information on the schedule, visit http://www.ssubears.com/schedule/0/4.php. For more information on Shawnee State Athletics, visit http://www.ssubears.com.