RETURN OF MOUNT ST. MARY'S MEN'S SOCCER
The much-anticipated return of the Mount St. Mary's men's soccer program begins with Friday night's match against Bucknell at Waldron Family Stadium under the lights at 7 p.m. The game will mark the program's first NCAA Division I competition since the 2012 campaign. The University announced the reinstatement of the program in August of 2016, with sights set on the 2018 season to begin competition.
The Mount men's soccer program began play as a varsity sport in 1953, and the Mountaineers moved to NCAA Division I in 1988-89. The Mount, which became members of the Northeast Conference (NEC) in 1989-90, reached the NEC title game on four occasions (1994, 1996, 1999 and 2008).
Prior to moving to Division I, the men's soccer program had 11 All-Americans, including Ken Swomley (1962-64), who earned the honor three times. The Mountaineers won back-to-back state championships in 1981 and 1982, while repeating the feat in 1986 and 1987. The 1987 squad posted a school-record 14 wins, led by two-time All-American goalkeeper, Larry Howley.
The 2018 Mount squad will look to carry on the rich tradition set forth over the previous 60 seasons of Mount St. Mary's men's soccer. Head Coach Bryan Cunningham's young and talented team consists of 16 freshmen, four sophomores, seven juniors, and one grad student.
The Bison were picked to finish sixth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll following a 7-8-4 overall record and 5-3-1 conference mark last season. Bucknell finished third in the league, but was upset in the Patriot League Quarterfinals at the hands of Colgate. Sophomore forward/midfielder Matt Thorsheim was named to the Preseason All-Patriot League Team ahead of the 2018 campaign after leading the squad in all three scoring categories (5g, 4a, 14p) in 2017 en route to collecting Third Team All-Patriot League honors. The team also returns junior midfielder Nick King, who ranked second on the squad with 10 points (4g, 2a) last year, and goalies Ryan Ott and Emmett Witmer, who combined for a 0.95 goals against average and .810 save percentage.
Friday's meeting between the Mount and Bucknell will mark the 10th all-time matchup between the programs, and the first since the 2002 season. The Mount owns a 6-3 advantage in the series, including a perfect 4-0 mark on its home turf. The Mount posted a 1-0 victory over the Bison in 2001, which was the last time the two faced off in Emmitsburg.
AT THE HELM
Mount St. Mary's Head Coach Bryan Cunningham, who's been tasked with leading the revival of the program, spent 10 seasons as head coach at the University of Central Florida, where he developed one of the nation's elite men's soccer programs. Cunningham led his squad to as high as No. 6 in the national rankings during his tenure, and brought the Knights to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in both 2010 and 2011. Cunningham made previous stops as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Pfeiffer University, along with Appalachian State, South Carolina, and UCF, before taking over the helm at UCF. As a player at Pfeiffer University, Cunningham was a three-time team captain and led the Falcons to a pair of conference championships.
On Thursday, Cunningham announced that goalkeeper Bobby Edwards and defender Bilal Hassane would serve as team captains for the 2018 campaign. Edwards played last season at Monmouth University, starting 16 games for the Hawks and posting a 1.48 goals against average and a .731 save percentage, to go along with three shutouts. The keeper played for Saint Joseph's University from 2014-16, and finished his career at SJU ranked third all-time in program history in goals against average (1.38) and ninth in shutouts (6). Hassane will look to help anchor the backline for the Mountaineers this season. The junior defender came to the Mount from Frederick Community College, where he appeared in 16 games and made 15 starts for the Cougars last season, registering 10 points on a pair of goals and six assists.
The Mountaineers were picked to finish eighth in the Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches Poll ahead of their first season back in Division I competition since the 2012 campaign. Two-time defending NEC Champion St. Francis Brooklyn was the unanimous choice to repeat in 2018, receiving all eight possible first-place votes from the league's coaches. Last year's runner-up, LIU Brooklyn, was picked second, while Fairleigh Dickinson rounded out the top-three. Saint Francis U, Central Connecticut and Robert Morris took the middle three spots in the poll, while Bryant, Mount St. Mary's and Sacred Heart rounded it out.
Mount St. Mary's will head to Baltimore to take on Loyola in the team's first road test of the season on Monday, August 27 at 7 p.m.