By Bud Denega
| 2019 Schedule |
ADA — The Ohio Northern men's soccer team hit its stride during tournament time last season. The Polar Bears held a 4-5 record in Ohio Athletic Conference play during the regular season, but found their form in the postseason.
And while the season came to a heartbreaking end in penalty kicks during the OAC title game, interim head coach Chris Matejka is confident his squad can return to that stage in 2019 and write a different ending.
"Our expectations are to win the conference, win the conference tournament and qualify for NCAA Tournament," Matejka said. "That's always our goal, that's always our ambition, and I think everyone is on the same page with that."
The Polar Bears have plenty of talent coming back for the 2019 season. Northern returns four of its five leading goal scorers and plenty on the defensive side — including its goaltender — to contend at the top of the conference.
"I think that we've got some good returning guys," Matejka said. "We've got a good core group of guys that I think can take to us to the next level and help us win more games. The objective is to put those guys in good positions to help us win games and push them in training. We definitely have some good experience coming back, which is nice."
Here's a further breakdown of how the roster shook out…
Junior Beelal Hasan (Westerville/Thomas) headlines the goal scorers for ONU. He netted a team-high 15 goals last season to go alongside six assists, and was named first-team All-OAC and OAC All-Tournament for his efforts.
Other returning letter-winners up front include senior Noah Bachwitz (Buffalo, N.Y./Williamsville North) — who recorded one goal and six assists and was honored as part of the OAC All-Tournament team — and juniors Logan Whinery (Westlake) and Mitchell Colvin (Tipp City/Tippecanoe).
"We have a great group of guys to lead us up front," Matejka said. "We are always looking to score more goals, and with the competitive nature we bring every day, I think we can accomplish that this season."
When mentioning the middle of the pitch, conversations must start with the reigning OAC Freshman of the Year. Levi King (Indianapolis Ind./North Central) was second on the team with 10 goals a season ago and led the squad with eight assists en route to being named second-team All-OAC.
Junior Jimmy Walkinshaw (Plymouth, Mich./Canton) also earned special distinction being named honorable mention All-OAC and to the OAC All-Tournament team. He scored one goal and had one assist.
Sophomore Matt Studenic (Wadsworth) boasted three goals with one assist, while senior Timothy Hoffman (Strongsville) and junior Jacob Scheufler (Carol Stream, Ill./Glenbard North) each scored one goal apiece. Juniors Segio Bugarin (Murrieta, Cal./Murrieta Valley) and Danny Sasak (Berea/Midpark) round out the lettermen in the midfield.
"Lots of experience will help us in the midfield this year," Matejka said. "We have a lot of confidence in this group."
Sophomore Jacob Westerkamp (Beavercreek) anchors the defensive half of the field for the Polar Bears. Westerkamp earned second-team All-OAC honors as a freshman.
The senior trio consisting of Luke Fickenworth (Cincinnati/Anderson), Jacob Kieckhafer (Sheboygan, Wis./North) and John Sternasty (Akron/Revere) return, bringing with them two letter-winning season apiece. Junior Josh Grant (Westerville/North) also has two letters to his name, while Keagan Shapiro (Liberty Township/Lakota East) and Caiman Moore (Linden, Mich./Linden) each boast one letter-winning season.
"I think the focus is always getting shutouts," Matejka said. "It takes a full team effort, but the leaders we have in the back will certainly amplify that focus."
Sophomore John Lombardo (Solon) stands as the last line of defense for Northern. He started 14 games in net last season, holding a record of 9-4 with four shut outs. He recorded 47 saves while allowing just 15 goals.
Matejka and the Polar Bears also welcome 11 freshman to the 2019 squad. Northern opens the season at Lake Forest, Ill. Aug. 30 before beginning its home slate against Hope (Mich.) Sept. 6.