This is a guest article by a friend of ours, Reid Cytron. Reid was a member of the soccer team his freshman year, and has since followed the team closely. I hope you guys enjoy his thorough preview!
By any programs’ standards TU had a fantastic 2016 season. They finished the season 10-5-5 and knocked off a handful of great programs. Among them were Creighton and South Florida who reached the Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen, respectively. Tulsa also won their third consecutive AAC Championship and qualified for the NCAA National Championship tournament. Definitely a good reason to be proud of our 2016 season.
Unfortunately, though, our boys were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, making that the third season in a row that they were knocked out that early. Could they have made it farther? Yes; they had already beaten Creighton earlier in the season (the team that knocked them out). Despite their many successes they were unable to break down the door to the second round of the NCAA tournament and edge closer to that ultimate of goal of a Final Four and National Championship.
As the team begins its training for the 2017 campaign, everything they do will be with an eye toward advancing deep into that tournament and moving closer to the National Championship match.
Tulsa soccer lost a handful of key players including Jake McGuire (Goalkeeper), Bradley Bourgeois (Defense), and Ray Saari (Midfield). Jake received numerous accolades in the AAC and has logged playing time with MLS’ Philadelphia Union. Bradley and Ray also won many awards in the AAC and they are both having success in the USL. These guys are going to be hard to replace, but we have many good players ready to take on these responsibilities.
Our new keeper, Marcel Da Silva (0), was a top 15 goalkeeper in his age group. Marcel hasn’t seen much of the field because of the success of our previous goalkeeper. Hopefully he experiences a smooth transition into his starting role. If any freshman get an opportunity to step into the starting spot that Bradley left behind in the defense, it should be our highest rated recruit: Troy Soubannasing. He’s a Top Drawer Soccer 3 Star Recruit from Tulsa, OK. You would think our highest rated recruit would get an opportunity; just how much time will, of course, be up to him taking advantage of those chances. Cole Poppen (6) is a defender returning to the lineup after receiving a medical redshirt last season.
Losing Ray Saari in the midfield is tough. He was the team’s 2nd leading scorer with 5 goals and 4 assists. However, 3 of the team’s top scorers return including forward Matthew Puig (8 goals, 1 assist). Jake Gooden and Rollie Rocha should be able to improve on their totals from last season (4 goals & 2 assists and 3 goals & 4 assists, respectively). Also in the midfield, senior Kay Duit (16) will be returning to take on one of these positions. The coaching staff likes to alternate between using two and three center midfielders and I think we can expect to see a lot of competition for the other two spots this year. A few incoming players may be thrown into the mix. Keep an eye out for Chase Bromstedt (3) and Joe Ruiz (2) in these positions. Our forwards should not suffer any setbacks.
I’m optimistic about our roster this season. We have a lot of leaders returning. Our non-conference games are the teams that I think will prove to be the most challenging. We have Wisconsin, Denver and St. Louis all coming to Hurricane Stadium. St. Louis and Wisconsin are consistently top tier programs and Denver finished in the top five last year. They will all provide a thrilling home season for us. One of our toughest challenges will be Stanford. Stanford is the 2015 and 2016 National Champions and an away game for TU. Not only are they back-to-back national champions but they will also be receiving the top ranked 2017 recruiting class this year. Our match against the Cardinals will take place early September and will conclude a three-game stretch on the road. The last big contender for Tulsa will be Creighton, who we will also play on the road and will serve as our last warm up before conference play. Creighton knocked Tulsa out of the NCAA tournament in the first round last season. Hopefully this game is televised somewhere because it should become a heated match. Put it on your calendar.
I’m really optimistic about conference this year. The AAC is surprisingly one of the toughest conferences in soccer. You can check out this link to get Head Coach Tom McIntosh’s opinion on our upcoming season. USF made it to the sweet sixteen of the National Championship last season and SMU always gives us a run for our money. Last season we placed second behind USF by a wide margin. USF should return this season as strong as the last but I still believe that we have what it takes to overcome them. If you watched our match against them last season you know that we can outplay them. And luckily we get to play both USF and SMU in Hurricane Stadium. The winner of the league hosts the conference tournament and for those of us who have been patiently waiting, I think we have a good chance to watch the conference tournament at home.
Whether you’re a soccer fan or not I hope to see you at Hurricane Stadium this year!