Photo Courtesy of Sammy Croft
BANNER ELK, N.C. – The Lees-McRae College men's soccer team will begin its 2017 season with a pair of neutral-site non-conference tilts on the campus of Wingate University this week. The Bobcats will kick off their season at 4 p.m. on Thursday vs. Rollins College before closing out their first weekend of action with a matchup against Saint Leo on Saturday at 2 p.m.
About the Bobcats – Lees-McRae comes into the 2017 season looking to improve on a 5-14-0 overall record and 4-6 mark in league action from last fall. Despite finishing with a sub-.500 record in league matches, the Bobcats did reach the semifinals in the conference tournament for the third straight season. Individually, the Bobcats return three All-Conference Carolinas performers from last season, including Tom Deeley who received All-Region honors as well.
About the Opponents – Rollins finished 2016 with a record of 8-6-2 overall and 3-4-2 in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC). The Tars, who began the 2016 campaign ranked nationally, failed to make their conference tournament last season. In 2017, Rollins figures to be led by NSCAA All-Region players in defender Fritz Engel and goalkeeper Drew Trautmann.
As for Saint Leo, the Lions look to have a rebound season after finishing 2016 with a 5-8-0 record and a 3-6-0 mark in league matches. Saint Leo will be under new leadership in 2017 as Tony Paris takes the reigns of the program. Despite being new to his position with the men's program, Paris is no stranger to Saint Leo as he has served as an assistant coach and was the first ever head coach of the women's program at the school.
Record Watch – As the calendar turns to the 2017 season for Lees-McRae there are a couple seniors looking to move their names up in the record books for the program. First, Deeley is currently tied for 10th in program history with 24 goals along with being tied for sixth in game-winning goals with six. Another record to keep in mind involves goalkeeper Tyler Pavlet. Pavlet currently is seventh in program history with 128 saves in his career and boasts the fifth-most shutouts for any goalkeeper to play for the school with nine.
Preseason Poll – Despite returning the bulk of their players from last season, the Bobcats were picked to finish eighth in the Conference Carolinas Preseason Poll earlier this month. Deeley along with James Morgan and Pol Vassart were named players to watch for the team this season.
Series History/Season Openers – Lees-McRae does not have a whole lot of prior history with the two programs it will face this weekend. The Bobcats have never met Rollins and have only played Saint Leo one time and that was in 2015. Additionally, the Bobcats have encountered mixed results when opening seasons over the past 10 years. Lees-McRae has a record of 5-5-0 in those tilts, but it has won two of the last three.