Ten freshmen, eleven sophomores, five juniors, eight seniors, seven returning starters, 34 total Crusaders, this is Crusader soccer. The men are rearing to go for the 2011 season, kicking off ASC conference play Friday, Sept. 16, against LeTourneau University.
It will be a kickoff to a predicted stellar season. In a preseason poll, UMHB was voted the number three contender for the American Southwest Conference title.
Senior midfielder and accounting major Kyle Dickey responded to the prediction saying, “The pressure isn’t in that (prediction). The real pressure, I feel, is with our program and with our fans. We are a solid team, and it’s time to have something to show for it.”
An ASC title perhaps? It wouldn’t be the first time the boys brought home such an honor.
In 2009, Head Coach Brad Bankhead directed the team to the first ever men’s soccer conference title in the school history.
This year’s roster still contains the names of nine players who were a part of the potent formula that brought them the title in ’09. Despite the loss of seven seniors from last season, including two-time ASC All-Conference selection goalkeeper Mark Miller, this year still has the potential to take it all.
A key element in obtaining another conference title is a dependable goalie. Now filling the cleats of Miller is Adam Cecil, a senior cellular biology major from Rockwall, Texas. A three-year apprenticeship behind record-breaking Miller and two veteran defenders in his flat-four defense qualify Cecil to be the keeper that this team needs to make it to the team’s second title.
A confident Cecil shows much faith in his team.
“This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of, so I expect to win conference and compete for a national championship.”
Such confidence is the product of years of hard work, a long way from the humble beginnings of Bankhead’s career at UMHB. The coach reflects on that time.
“When I first took the job six years ago, UMHB was not even a contender in the ASC title race.”
Today he stands with a number three contending team, and it breaks down like this: Cecil at goal and two season-hardened defenders, senior Colton Carlisle accompanied by junior all-conference and all-region defender Chris Torres mentoring the underclassmen in the back. An experienced midfield led by senior Kyle Dickey and an electric attack with senior Trevor Shoppach at the helm.
Head to toe, Bankhead’s bunch is looking solid. In a preseason scrimmage at home against Huston-Tillotson, the Cru had what seemed like a good start with an early goal, a one-on-one with the keeper that rolled to one side of him into the net.
The cheers were silenced, however, by the line-judge’s flag high in the air. Off-sides warranted the tie to continue. Many substitutions were made throughout the game. Freshmen received some time on the field, and key players like Dickey and Torres made plays and created opportunities.
UMHB went on to lose the scrimmage 1-0 after an onslaught of offensive attacks that resulted in eight spectacular saves by Cecil. However, the ninth shot found the back of the net.
Though not the start Crusader soccer fans had hoped for, major points were made: first, Cecil can fill the hole that Miller’s absence left after his graduation in the spring. Secondly, key players will step up. Lastly, Bankhead has a very versatile roster.