Men’s soccer recalibrates after two-straight Horizon League Tournament titles

Ally Racey

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This year will bring the toughest schedule Oakland men’s soccer has ever had and one of the top recruiting classes in the Golden Grizzlies Division I era, head coach Eric Pogue said.

“You have to put yourself and test yourselves against the best to get exposed a little bit,” he said.

Oakland earned their second consecutive Horizon League Tournament title last season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, finishing with a 10-8-2 record.

With 1.15 goals allowed per game, Oakland ranked 76th of 202 teams in the NCAA for goals against.

Seniors

The team loses eight vital graduating seniors over the summer: Gerald Ben, Matt Rickard, Eliott Tarney, Shawn Claud Lawson, Jacob VanderLaan, Raphael Reynolds, Matt Dudley and Derek Nowak.

“You could say that we are kind of going to be rebuilding, but I don’t like that word,” Pogue said. “I think we are just going to be reloading and recalibrating.”

The team will welcome nine newcomers from Michigan, Kansas, Liberia and Canada to go along with five transfers, including junior college transfer Wilfred Williams. Williams, a Liberia native, chose Oakland because the school doesn’t offer football, meaning that soccer is the main focus during the fall, he said.

“On my visit, there was a lot of signs that led me to know Oakland was going to be my next home,” Williams said.

Pogue said they are adding a good combination of quality Division I and junior college transfers and true freshman that they feel can make an immediate impact in the fall with the top-class national powerhouse schedule they have planned.

14 new players are joining the squad, and they are exactly what Pogue is looking for.  Not only talent-wise but with respect to character, as well.

“We are excited about the potential of the players coming in along with the excitement the program has received picking up some of the nation’s top recruits and mixing them with the returning young players who are hungry to prove themselves,” Pogue said.

Nyal Higgins is one of the freshmen from Ontario. He was a member of the Ajax team that won the Ontario Cup.

Pogue said it is the same program from which they got Austin Ricci and Shawn Claud Lawson, and that there’s a history of successful Oakland players coming from Ajax.

“We are extremely excited about our 2016 Oakland men’s soccer recruiting class which will go down as one of our top talent-wise recruiting classes in the Golden Grizzlies NCAA Division I era on paper,” Pogue said. “Time will tell if they reach their potential, but they have all the tools to be successful in the Black and Gold.”

He thanked the coaching staff, which he said worked mighty hard.

The spring season kicks off at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 19 in the home exhibition game against Vaughn.

The first College Clash matchup is Saturday, March 12 against Northwestern Ohio (NAIA) at the Legacy Center in Brighton.