Since 2014, the men’s soccer team has been absent from the PAC playoffs. The last two seasons, the Yellow Jackets had a chance to qualify on the last day but lost both times to Washington & Jefferson.
The Jackets are predicted to be on the outside looking in once again, as they were picked to finish fifth in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference preseason coaches’ poll.
Last season the Yellow Jackets finished sixth in the conference with a record of 5-10-1 overall and 2-4-1 in PAC play.
Grove City is favored to repeat as PAC champions, with the program tallying 69 points in the poll, one ahead of second place Westminster.
Westminster College is right behind the Wolverines with 68 points projected.
Head coach Brad Heethuis is going to take the season one day at a time to be prepared for PAC play.
“We are just taking things one day at a time right now to get better,” Heethuis said. “We are doing that so we can be playing our best soccer by the time PAC play rolls around.”
After seeing the coaches’ poll, senior defender Sean McCann believes the team has more potential than what the projections indicate.
“Fifth [place] doesn’t really line up with what we can achieve this season,” McCann said. “The prediction has just added even more motivation and more drive to our team to reach that playoff spot.”
For the season, Heethuis expects the team to be competitive in non conference play. Waynesburg opens the season Friday, Aug. 30 on the road at Lancaster Bible, then plays eight more out of conference games before opening the PAC season against Chatham Sept. 28. Non-conference opponents include LaRoche, Franciscan and Baldwin Wallace.
“I expect to be very competitive this season,” said Heethuis. “We have a solid non-conference schedule that will prepare us for the PAC.”
McCann expects the team to be highly motivated to avoid another postseason disappointment.
“We have missed the playoffs the past few seasons and I think this team is ready to push even harder this year,” said McCann. “We have a talented freshman class that I think will help us compete which is very encouraging.”
Some key players returning include McCann, senior midfielders Justin Buberl and Nate Kummer and junior forward Daniel Hott.
“This year the focus is getting out every session and game, pushing ourselves just a little harder and keeping ourselves accountable,” McCann said. “If we focus on our game and what we can control then I think this team can be successful.”
Heethuis doesn’t quite know what to expect from his team against its conference opponents.
“It is difficult to say right now because it’s the start of the season,” said Heethuis. “I just expect the PAC to be highly contested again this year.”