The 2005 season for the Union University men’s soccer program begins with great expectations and excitement. Last season’s efforts produced the most successful postseason in Union soccer history. In addition to their runner-up finish in the TranSouth Conference Tournament, the Bulldogs earned their first ever trip to the NAIA Region XI tournament where they earned a win and posted a semifinal finish. Many players are returning from that team and should provide the necessary leadership and direction to build on those successes in 2005.
Of the 23 players on the 2005 Union Bulldog varsity soccer roster, 17 of those players are returning from a year ago. Head Coach Dr. Darin White has added six new and talented players to the mix in hopes of taking the next step towards a conference championship. Included in the six newcomers on the varsity squad are five freshman and one junior.
Union’s upper classes make up only seven of the 23 spots on the roster. Union’s senior class is the smallest with just two players. Robert Stinson and Marko Pavlovic are both returning players that have contributed greatly over their careers. The junior class has five players including four returning players. Duncan Nicol, Mark Forrest, Christopher Prentice, and Gareth Munro are all returning players who have each been starters for the majority of their careers. Kirk Childers, a junior college transfer, marks the only newcomer in the junior class.
The sophomore class makes up the largest class on the 2005 varsity roster with 11 players, all of which are returning players. This is good news for Coach White who has seen these freshmen make major contributions already in their young careers. The group includes last season’s TranSouth Conference Freshman of the Year, as well as, an All-American, All-Region, and All-Conference performer in Benny Crozier. Crozier has been named this season’s Team Captain by his teammates. Bobby McColl also earned honors during his freshman season as he was named an All-Conference performer. In addition to Crozier and McColl, the sophomore class has Chris Lean, Clayton Stockett, Colin Bonner, Scott Sinclair, Craig Clark, Michael Pugh, Kyle Sanders, John Michael Ryall, and Nikola Djordjevic. Crozier, McColl, Lean, Sinclair, Djordjevic, and Clark each saw major minutes as freshmen last season. Finally, the freshman class on the varsity roster has five players. Cody Curtis, Matthew Lynn, Graham Stirling, Wagner Oliveira, and Jordan Hall fill out the rookie class of 2005.
Looking at this team, several of the key spots on the field are filled with experienced players. Stinson and Lean have formed a great competition for the starting goalie spot over the past few years; however, the senior Stinson will get the nod between the posts to start this season. On the offensive side of the ball, Crozier, Munro and McColl will be the ones called on to lead the scoring attack. However, according to Coach White, freshman Vagner Oliveira will step in at the striker position as on of the top newcomers on the team. Defensively, Sinclair and Pavlovic have proven they can lead the defense to the high quality that Coach White stresses from his teams.
In the 2005 TranSouth Conference Preseason Coach’s Poll, the coaches in the league picked Union to finish second in the regular season standings. According to Coach White, this team is well capable of making that kind of run, however, he also believes that this team could easily challenge for the conference title.