As Grant Brubacher begins his second year as bench boss for the Tabor College soccer teams, the Bluejay men have a higher level of talent in place despite the graduation of five players, and the women have raised their stock as well.
Most notably absent from the men?s team will be four-year starters Chris Adrian and Luke Froese, but Brubacher believes that with the combination of returning starters and new arrivals, the team has improved.
?We have the talent to finish a spot or two higher than we were picked (sixth),? Brubacher said. ?Hope?fully, we will be a bit better than we were last year.?
The team will play with four defenders this year. Two of the back line spots are likely to be filled by returning starters Josh Reiswig and JD Tippin.
The other two will be filled by a combination of senior Derik Martinez, who comes to the program after kicking for the Bluejay football team, and sophomores Jake Riley and Cameron Beckman.
Alberto Shearer is in the mix at defender, and might also earn time at forward.
Tabor will play three midfielders: Dallas Pruitt and two out of a group that includes newcomers Robert Maseu, Marco Spandiera, Liam McQueen and returning junior David Alanis.
Tabor will play three forwards, with returning seniors Silas Hibbs, Andy Adrian and Ben Ruzinsky most likely to hold starting jobs. Pruitt and Shearer may also get the nod, depending on Brubacher?s read of his team?s needs.
Aaron Schmucker has the goalkeeper?s job strongly secured so far.
Brubacher considers the midfield both the key to success and a true strength this season.
?With international players coming in and our returners, I?m looking for our midfielders to bridge the gap between our defenders and forward very well,? he said. ?This should be a big strength for us.?
The women?s team should be similarly improved, as keeper Aubrey Whitehorn will key the defense and forward Jessica Burden will take care of the offense.
The Bluejays will play three defenders: Erin Vance and Leigh Costello return, while former Bluejay basketball players Cheri Mount and Stacie Herman join the program.
Joanna Pyle also joins the soccer squad, and will likely enter the lineup along with returning senior Kelly White, incoming transfers Sam Pequin and Staci Polkinhorn.
Three others will contest for the fifth midfield position: Melissa Jimenez, who returns to the team after a season away from the program, Emily Friesen and Brazilian international Mariela Barbosa.
White will be a huge addition for the Bluejays after missing last season with a medical redshirt.
The team will play two forwards. Barring injury, Burden, a two-time all-conference second teamer entering her senior year with the squad, will certainly be one. The other will be a combination of Pequin, Adria Whitehorn and Amy Dueck.
Given that the Bluejays were picked to finish last by Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference coaches, the road to competitiveness within the conference is a long one?but Brubacher believes the team is taking a turn for the better.
?For our program, and especially compared to last year, the experience we have this year is a strength,? Brubacher said. ?We know we?ll have a good attack because of JB (Burden) and we know we?ll have a good defense because of Aubrey.?
Both Tabor teams begin non-conference play when they host Greenville College on Saturday morning, Sept. 6.