FAIRBORN — The 2018 men’s soccer season will be one of change for Wright State in several areas, but the team still appears poised to win the Horizon League crown, which would be a first for the program.
With a new head coach at the helm in eight-year WSU assistant Jake Slemker, there will likely be some changes in the Raider’s style of play on the pitch. He preached the importance of physicality in his system.
“You have to be pretty fit to play in the system I want to run. There is going to be a lot of movement on and off the ball,” Slemker said. “We’re going to have to be able to compete at a high level for 90 minutes, so our fitness and physical aspect of the game is going to be a big part of it.”
WSU signed 13 new players in February, 11 freshmen and two transfers. The 10 juniors and two seniors on the roster should make the transition for those newcomers smoother.
“We have a number of older veteran guys that can hopefully provide a lot of leadership,” Slemker said. “It’s going to be helpful in keeping the locker room tight, the culture and that high work rate.”
The defense will have a solid foundation with the return of senior defender Dan Bent, who received Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. Junior defender Austin Kinley (Xenia HS) will bring his experience with 16 total starts as a sophomore. Conference Second-Team honoree and junior goalkeeper Joel Sundell with his 24 saves last year, will add a further stronghold.
“This year’s defense is looking very strong with all the players coming off great seasons with their respective summer teams,” Bent said. “With some new additions to help strengthen our defense I think we will be very hard to break down.”
The WSU offense will return two of their more prominent goal scoring juniors from last season in midfielder Stefan Rokvic and forward Alec Philippe, who had seven and four shots in the back of the net respectively. With their 16 and 17 respective starts last year, sophomore midfielder Brayden McNitt and senior midfielder Eric Hutton should also have an impact.
Junior midfielder Jackson Dietrich, who missed the 2017 season due to injury and led WSU in assists with eight in 2016, should create plenty of scoring opportunities. Transfer junior midfielder Deri Corfe, who was part of Manchester City’s youth academy and scored 11 goals for NAIA Rio Grande last season, will be another striker to watch for.
“I’m expecting our offense to be dangerous. We have a lot of guys up top who are creative and know how to score,” Dietrich said. “I think once Jake and the coaching staff get their tactics set we will have a good attack.”
The Raiders have been on the cusp of a coronation with three consecutive league title game appearances from 2014-16. This provides a clear sense of motivation for the team and coaching staff.
“We have been so close to winning the Horizon League multiple times, but we truly believe that this is our year to shine,” Hutton said. “The first couple days of preseason have felt amazing and we all have the urge to win and work hard on and off the pitch. I think we will do something special.”
“Our guys are hungry to take that next step. Our goal is to take them to a new standard, and that starts with training and team standards,” Slemker said. “From the top down we’re going to make sure they have all the equipment and tools they need to get to that next level and prepare themselves the right way.”
The regular season for WSU kicks off at home against UNC Asheville on Friday, Aug. 24. For more about the Wright State Raiders visit www.wsuraiders.com.