Siloam Springs, Ark. (August 21, 2003) - After a slow start to the 2002 season, the JBU men’s soccer team finished with a solid 2002 campaign. The Golden Eagles battled their way back to win the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament and the Region VI NAIA Tournament. Entering this season the Golden Eagles are ranked third in the 2003 SAC preseason coaches poll behind Oklahoma City and University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
Bob Gustavson’s squad returns 18 players off last year’s team as they look to improve on 2002’s stellar season. Despite losing their leading scorer, Shane Mark, to graduation the Golden Eagles still return a bulk of their offensive attack. Seniors Federico Suarez and Paul Barker, sophomores Wesley Chase, Daniel Fleming, Seth Hildebrant and Kyle Carter collectively scored 67 of the 132 total points scored by the Golden Eagles during the 2002 season. Also, with the return of sophomore Ryan Woolery, who scored 4 points for the Golden Eagles during the 2002 season, the offense looks to be a dangerous threat.
To complement the Golden Eagles offense, JBU returns a stingy defense that kept their opponents to just over 1 goal per game during last year’s campaign. Leading the way on defense is the return of junior goalkeeper and NAIA Honorable Mention All-American Pablo Fernandez. Fernandez, who had 92 saves in 18 games last year, provides a strong foundation for a team that allowed just two goals in 5 games during the SAC tournament and the Region VI tournament in Oklahoma City. In addition the Golden Eagles added 7 freshmen to the 2003 roster, including Brian Carlisle from Peoria, Arizona, Justin Cowel of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Phillip Davis from Emmet, Arkansas, Stephen Granberry of Andover, Kansas, Joe Hirleman from Overland Park, Kansas, Juliao Rodrigo of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Aaron Shaffer from Yukon, Oklahoma.
Coach Gustavson who has over 300 wins going into the 2003 season states that “even though we experienced some unexpected and exciting success last year, we still need to improve, eliminate weaknesses and work to get stronger at all positions. Our new players need to make an impact at practice and in the games. Our letterman need to provide maturity and leadership to this squad.” The JBU Golden Eagles men’s soccer team will open their home season September 2, when they host Oklahoma Wesleyan at 3:00 p.m.