The Northwestern men’s soccer program won 11 games in 2012, posting back-to-back double digit win seasons for only the third time in program history (2003-04, 2006-07). The Red Raiders are looking to be the first NWC team to win 10 or more matches three consecutive seasons when they return seven All-GPAC performers from 2012 to the field in 2013. Northwestern is also looking to improve on its third place finish in the conference, after finishing third the past two years. The GPAC coaches picked Northwestern to finish third in the 2013 preseason coaches’ poll.
The Red Raiders post a full roster of 45 players which includes; 15 returning letter winners, eight starters, seven All-GPAC players, and 10 seniors. “This is the deepest team I have coached in my six years,” said head coach Dan Swier. “We have six freshmen on varsity and 20 returners; every position on the field is competitive and deep.”
Northwestern’s depth will likely be showcased early as the Red Raiders will have three weekend doubleheaders before starting conference play. Northwestern opens this weekend in Colorado against NCAA D2 opponents Colorado Christian (Thurs.) and Metro St. (Sat.). The Raiders will also play weekend doubleheaders against John Brown/Davenport in the Pizza Ranch Classic in Orange City and the Viterbo Classic versus Viterbo/Cardinal Stritch. The Red Raiders will also host a match against Jamestown and travel to Mt. Mercy for a match.
“This is the most difficult non-conference schedule we have ever put together,” says Swier. “We will face three teams that qualified for the NAIA national tournament (Cardinal Stritch, Jamestown, and Hastings) in 2012 and other quality NAIA teams in John Brown and Mount Mercy. We will also open with two NCAA D2 schools Colorado Christian and Metro State. We are purposely building toward competing at a high level, and with our players, we expect to compete well.”
In the GPAC, the Red Raiders will open with Midland on Sept. 21 in Fremont. “Midland has been a road block for us, so we start out with a very tough GPAC match,” said Swier. Twice during the GPAC season Northwestern has a week between matches because of how the schedule fell. Swier says, “The breaks in our schedule can be either a blessing or a curse. They will allow us to recover from injuries and will give us more prep time for some opponents.” Swier points at Hastings as the favorite in the GPAC but says that the conference is “as good as it has been. The top six could all finish in any order. There will a lot of important games.”
Here is a position by position breakdown of the Red Raider team:
Goalkeeper—Aaron Bosch will take the role of keeper this season after a freshman season in which he went 2-1 with one shutout. “We are hopeful his nerves are behind him and he can play with confidence,” Swier said. “He has good technique and skill and plays behind seven guys who are returning starters.”
Defense—The Red Raider defense returns three four-year starters to the back line. Matt Dowie, Harri Edwards, and Justin Lehman all return for their senior season after being recognized as All-GPAC performers on defense last season. Nate Huyser also joins the defense as a returning starter from 2012. “This group has broken every defensive program record the last two years,” says Swier. “Our three seniors have played together for four years. They won five games as freshmen and have been through the ups and downs together.” The Red Raiders also have brought in some freshmen defenders who Swier says “will be impact guys and they help us feel confident with our options and depth on defense.”
Midfield—Nick Hengst, Travis Sytsma, and Gabriel Goncalves all return to the Red Raider midfield after being All-GPAC performers in 2012. Ben Fetter and Pedro Fonseca also return after productive seasons off the bench for the Raiders in 2012. “We are very deep at midfield,” says Swier. “Our depth will help us to handle the doubleheaders, and I think we can run a lot of guys out there and still have success. Our three returners, I think, are the best trio of midfielders since I’ve been around Northwestern soccer and I hope at the end of the year they’ll have the offensive stats to support that.”
Forward—Jeriah Dunk earned All-GPAC honors last season and returns for his senior campaign, but beyond that Swier says, “This is the one position we still need to get sorted out. We have a lot of guys who saw the field last year. Tukker Bogaard had a great spring and understands what we want from the center forward, so he leads the way there. Koray Karakas, Ryan Johnson, Leo Sanchez Perry, and a number of freshmen will all see time at forward as we play in the pre-conference games. It will be a revolving door to start the year.”
Despite the questions on the offensive end, Northwestern is hoping its defense can carry the Raiders. Coach Swier hopes the team can match the school record for shutouts in a season with nine and that the offense can find a way to score 16 more goals than in 2012 for an even number of 50. He also thinks they can finish in the top three of the GPAC. “We’d really like to go deep into the GPAC tournament as well,” Swier said. “We were disappointed in last year’s tournament and we’d like to make the championship game to say at a minimum we had a shot at going to the national tournament.”