TC men’s soccer fields huge team

These seniors and returning All-KCAC athletes will anchor the largest Tabor College men’s soccer team Grant Brubacher has ever had: front row (from left) Douglas Millsop, Bransyn Felty, Jose Ruano; (back row) Tom Gaskell, Jeff Pritchard, Cole Younger, Agustin Ariza, Lewis Furmenger, Drew Janzen, Francisco Gallinal.
These seniors and returning All-KCAC athletes will anchor the largest Tabor College men’s soccer team Grant Brubacher has ever had: front row (from left) Douglas Millsop, Bransyn Felty, Jose Ruano; (back row) Tom Gaskell, Jeff Pritchard, Cole Younger, Agustin Ariza, Lewis Furmenger, Drew Janzen, Francisco Gallinal.
With 39 players on the roster, the Tabor College men’s soccer team will be the largest it’s been during coach Grant Brubacher’s 10th years at the helm.

The Bluejays return a majority of their starting lineup from last year’s 7-10 season, Tabor went 4-6 in KCAC play and finished seventh. The team’s depth and experience is expected to pay dividends this year.

“We have a lot of letter-winners back,” Brubacher said. “Our returning players definitely bring quite a bit of game experience back to the team, and we have quite a few seniors this year. I think it’ll be the largest senior class I’ve had since I’ve been at Tabor, so that will add some leadership and experience we haven’t had in the past.”

The Bluejays return seven or eight players with starting experience, Bru­bacher said, adding that he has brought in 10 transfers. Tabor has 11 international athletes on its roster, a number exceeds what Bru­bacher’s had in the past.

Finding chemistry between new and returning players will be integral to success.

“Obviously we have a large team,” Brubacher said. “Numbers-wise, it’ll be the largest team we’ve had at Tabor, and we also feel like we have probably the deepest team I’ve had, so I feel like the talent’s there. We do have a lot of new players, so blending the returners with the new players will be a big challenge.”

Forwards

Tabor returns its top two scorers from last year.

Senior Bransyn Felty, a second-team All-KCAC selection last year, returns as leading scorer. Felty led the Bluejays in goals (11), shots (65) and shots on goal (34). He ranked 31st nationally in shots on goal per game (2) and 32nd in shots per game (3.82).

Senior Agustin Ariza was Tabor’s second leading scorer and an honorable-mention selection in 2015. Ariza scored six goals for the Bluejays last year and led the team in assists (4).

“We have quite a bit of offense coming back with those two,” Brubacher said. “We’ll definitely have some leadership in the attack.”

Midfielders

Returning players in the midfield who saw action in 15 or more games last year include seniors Drew Janzen and Jose Ruano and junior Anthony Sanders.

Brubacher said he has also recruited transfers with experience to fill roles, including juniors Matthew Robinson, Robert Talaman­tez, Jose Rodriguez and Jorge Perez.

Defenders

Tabor’s third all-conference returnee, sophomore honorable-mention center back Lewis Furmenger, returns to lead the team defensively.

“He’ll also step into a captain’s role, along with Bransyn,” Brubacher said. “Those two guys will definitely play big leadership roles for us.”

Senior Cole Younger returns, having seen action in 16 games a year ago.

To fill the holes, Bru­bacher has recruited some junior transfers, including Quentin Francis and Zach Simmons.

Goalkeepers

Tabor returns sophomore goalkeeper Bryson Henry, who saw action in 13 games last season. He led the team in saves with 45.

Additional goalkeepers are on the roster are senior Tom Gaskell, junior Austin Farney, sophomore Derrick Eszlinger and freshmen Eduardo Chavez-Granados and Kyle King.

Outlook

Tabor was picked sixth by conference coaches in the preseason poll. Brubacher said Oklahoma Wesleyan is the clear favorite to win the KCAC. The Eagles went 10-0 in 2015 and 20-1-1 overall. OKWU ranks sixth in the NAIA coaches’ preseason Top 25 poll.

However, Brubacher said he expects his team to be in contention at the top of the conference as well.

“Based on our results last year and the talent we have coming into the program, I feel we have an opportunity to get back in the top two or three in the conference where we were a couple years ago,” he said. “I really feel confident that talent-wise, we should be on-par with most of the teams in the conference. It’ll just be a matter of whether we can get the new guys integrated into the team and on the same page.”

Tabor will open at Central Methodist College Aug. 31. The Bluejays will host Manhat­tan Christian College in their home-opener Saturday at 7:30 p.m.