New coach aims to regain continuity lost in off-season

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The men’s soccer program at Tabor College is coming off a KCAC championship season, but off-season changes have disrupted the continuity of the program.

Lincoln Wulf, hired a little more than a month ago as director of soccer operations at Tabor and the new men’s coach, has been handed the duty of steadying the Bluejays without getting the opportunity to benefit from the recruiting “bounce” which usually follows a championship year.

Wulf comes to Tabor after spending the past year in active duty in the U.S. military, serving in the Middle East.

Previous coaching experience at Allen County Community College, Neosho Community College and Sterling College has familiarized Wulf with Kansas and the KCAC.

“When we came back to the States, my wife and I decided this is what the Good Lord wanted us to do, so we started looking for a spot somewhere around here,” Wulf said. “The opportunity at Tabor opened up and here we are.”

Wulf will inherit a foundation of athletes most coaches would welcome with 10 returning players. But he is still in the process of figuring out who will be playing this season and where.

Heading the list of candidates will be first-team All-KCAC midfielder Scott Friesen.

“Scott will be one of our leaders both on and off the field,” Wulf said.

Also returning will be Ryan Kelly, whom Wulf called “a solid player last year and will be again this year.”

Along with graduation losses, Wulf also learned that first-team All-KCAC forward Neil Rabi has transferred to another school and second team All-KCAC forward Grant Brubacher won’t play this season, choosing instead to focus on other sports.

Other key players returning are Jon Adrian and Craig Penner.

By the time Wulf was hired to replace Nathan Wilkey, the prime recruiting battles had already been waged.

“I basically didn’t get to do any recruiting,” Wulf said. “Most of the good recruiting was pretty well done.”

But thanks to soccer enthusiasts in the admissions office and staff, Tabor was able to land a few quality recruits for the upcoming season.

Two Wichita natives, Matt Statler and Byron DeSaint, will join the Bluejay squad, along with Hillsboro High School alums Casey Reese, Jesse Jantzen, Andrew Unger and Matthew Unger.

“I think we’ll have about 15 or 16 out this season,” Wulf said. “Talent wise, we won’t be near as deep as last year.

“I wasn’t able to recruit and have been basically trying to keep things solid,” he added.

“The recruits we landed are solid, but there just aren’t as many as we’d like to have.”

Wulf said all 10 teams in the KCAC will field teams this year, with the addition of a program at McPherson College.

“I think Ottawa will have a breakout year this season,” Wulf said. “They recruited a lot of foreign players.”

Wulf also predicted Friends and St. Mary will be tough teams and predicted Kansas Wesleyan “won’t finish in the basement this season.”

With the addition of McPherson, six teams will qualify for playoff berths in the post-season tournament.

“I think we’ll have a good shot at making the top six,” Wulf said.

Wulf said the Bluejays’ early-season schedule will be difficult, but may be a blessing is disguise.

“Hopefully, we’ll learn from those early-season non-conference games and spring board off of those, and it’ll help us during our conference race.”

Ultimately, Wulf said Tabor will have to have some individuals push their game to another level if the Bluejays are going to taste the same kind of success as last year.

“If we can resolve our goal-keeper situation and get some scoring, we’ll be all right,” he said. “We need to be able to play solid defensively and try to counter attack as much as we can.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to dominate teams like they did last year, but I think we’ll be competitive and battling in every game.”

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