Leafs News
2017-18 PREVIEW: Maple Leafs Reload, Trust Process To Bring End Product
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Men's Soccer - Wed, Aug. 23, 2017

Goshen College Men's Soccer
2016: Results | Statistics | Record Book
2017: Roster | Schedule

GOSHEN, Ind. — A year ago, the Goshen College men's soccer team allowed a league-low seven goals in the nine Crossroads League regular-season matches. For the first time since 2006, the Maple Leafs posted back-to-back-to-back clean sheets: to put that in perspective, the last time that happened, current head coach Arron Patrick scored the goal that broke the streak.

The team went more than 405 minutes without giving up a goal before Huntington University ended the shutout streak with 3:18 left in the second half of overtime in a conference tournament quarterfinal. Since none of Goshen's 11 shots in the game had been fruitful, that goal ended the Maple Leafs' season.

In many ways, the result was an allegory for the campaign as a whole. While Goshen allowed just one goal every 91 minutes, with the 18 goals scored forming the best defensive mark in more than a decade, the team only scored 16 times, with the six defensive shutouts falling short of the seven offensive blankings. Indeed, the teams of 1973 and 1974 each posted games with as many goals as the 2016 team scored in a season.

The result of the lowest offensive output since 1994 was a 6-7-5 record, which set a school record for deadlocks, with center back Tevin Gilkes and goalkeeper Johan Escalante earning all-conference honors. Escalante's mark of 0.916 goals per game was the eighth-best in program history and the second-best since the conference expanded to eight schools in 1995.

Patrick returns the bulk of his roster from a season ago: among players who started more than half the games, only center back Jadon Chupp graduated. He brought in seven players (four freshmen and three transfers) in the recruiting season, in addition to sophomore defender Josh Garcia, who played in the GC reserve program last fall.

That incoming quartet of freshmen with shiny high school credentials: Uriel Macias set single-game, single-season and career scoring records at West Noble High School in Ligonier while earning first-team all-state honors, while Stuart Aeschliman was named MVP of the High School All-American game and led West Salem High School to two Oregon regional semifinals. And an attacking duo is exactly what the doctor, or rather the coach, ordered.

"We only reloaded with a few players, but they're key pieces and quality players," Patrick said. "We're really excited to build upon what we started last year. We created a lot of chances last season, we were just unfortunate at times and at other times we weren't clinical enough. We're going to look to create even more chances and score more goals."

"I'm most excited about the attacking options that we have this year," the coach continued. "Last year we were great defensively—best in the conference—but we didn't score enough goals. We really reloaded offensively this year with some really exciting young players coming in, as well as returners who are going to hopefully score some goals for us."

"One of the challenges I feel like we face this year, similar to last year, is that we played a lot of games that went to overtime and we didn't quite finish them out," said sophomore right back Ethan Francois-Ravalier. "We had the chances, but we didn't get to the finish line so we had a lot of draws. Hopefully we can turn those into wins, and obviously that would help us win conference as well. I'm looking forward to this year are getting into conference, hopefully winning in conference and hosting some tournament games."

"We're not going to forgo the defensive side of the game," said Patrick. "We still want to be the best defensive team in the conference. The next goal is be one of the best defensive teams in the country. A lot of schools just sit back and soak up pressure and look to counter. We press from the front. It's an organized press. We pride ourselves on working hard and being the fittest team so we're going to look to continue that trend, but obviously there needs to be an end product too in order to win games."

Ollie Smith led the team in scoring with five goals as a freshman last fall, while the team got two goals each from Ari Benjamin, Nate Nussbaum, Darius Rawlins and TJ White. The rest of the team falls under Patrick's comment about scoring more goals by process of elimination, because the scorers of the other three goals are no longer in the program.

"Smith is coming back as our top goal scorer from last year, so obviously he'll be a key piece for us," Patrick said. "Between him and Brodie (Nofziger), who's going to be a senior, they'll do a really good job of leading these young guys who are really hungry to score goals and think they have everything figured out, but when they go through a little lull, Brodie and Ollie have got to put their arms around them and help them out."

Three-fourths of the back line returns from last fall along with Escalante between the pipes. The group has been augmented with German freshman Sven Badstieber and Missouri Valley College transfer Gabriel Costa. Three incoming midfielders—Lucas Vilela from Missouri Valley, Alejandro Rosales from Elkhart by way of Saint Joseph's College and Oscar Ocampo from Elkhart Memorial—round out the roster.

Besides Francois-Ravalier, the Maple Leafs' other captain is listed as a midfielder. Despite spending as much time on defense as anywhere, Spencer Aeschliman highlights the offense (and one attacker in particular) as a reason to be excited.

"We signed a lot of attacking players this year and that's going to be super exciting," said the elder Aeschliman. "My brother's here, which is probably the most exciting part for me. We played together in high school and had a lot of fun doing that, and so getting him here has been really great and I'm really looking forward to it."

The challenges are probably going to come with having a lot of new guys, since it's going to take a few games and a lot of training sessions to get used to playing with each other," Spencer continued. "When you want to have a good end product, you need to be able to play together, pass the ball to each other, and think as one mind, which is difficult with a lot of new players, but I think a lot of the guys we got this year will be smart enough and be able to gel together really well."

In addition to their success on defense last fall, the Maple Leafs excelled in the classroom, posting a 3.36 grade-point average that ranked them ninth in the NAIA. A season ago, Goshen had half a dozen Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes, and while four of those graduated, the standards have not gotten lower.

"Success for us means having a season that we can be proud of off the field as well as on it," Patrick said. "We were ninth in the country as far as academics goes, so we pride ourselves on that and shoot for first in the country. That's what we're aiming for. We try to do outreach stuff, have our guys coaching in the community and other service projects. We're going build a house with Habitat for Humanity over the course of preseason. These are things we're really excited about.

"Obviously we're here to play football, so winning on the field is a key piece for this year," Patrick concluded. "We just tied a lot of games. If we turn those ties into wins it's going to be a really successful season. Understanding the process is what leads to winning those games—good habits (like) sleeping right, eating right, being to practice in a timely manner, being organized. The keys that we always focus on are organization, intensity and commitment and we're actually going to add winning as the fourth one this year because we need to do all of those things and have an end product."

"Last year we were really good defensively, which didn't necessarily translate to wins all the time. This season having an end product might not necessarily translate to wins all the time, but because we have a great defense, there's a good chance that it will," said Spencer Aeschliman. "Being able to finish, being able to play the final ball and learning how to do that really well is going to define success for us."

Following a season-opening sojourn to Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, on Friday, Goshen plays six of its next seven matches at home: the one exception is a 65-mile round trip to Holy Cross College in South Bend on Labor Day afternoon. The home opener comes on Wednesday, Aug. 30, against Siena Heights.

The team plays its next four non-conference home games in doubleheaders with the women, including each of the first three Saturdays in September. The one standalone home game comes against a former conference opponent, Indiana Tech, which competed in what was then the Mid-Central College Conference from 1970-77.

After opening the league slate at home against another Fort Wayne school in Saint Francis on the final day of September, Goshen hits the road for three straight games against Bethel, Huntington and Marian. The team hosts Spring Arbor and Taylor on Oct. 14 and 18, respectively, before traveling to Indiana Wesleyan for the penultimate match of the season, a rematch of the 2014 Crossroads League tournament championship on Oct. 25.

GC hosts Grace College to close out the season on Saturday, Oct. 28, with eight of the 10 conference schools qualifying for postseason play beginning four days later. The conference tournament champion receives an automatic berth to the NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship, which starts November 18 and concludes December 2 in Delray Beach, Florida.