NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After finishing last season 6-10-1, the worst mark since the 2011 season, the Lipscomb men’s soccer team knew changes had to be made, on and off the field.
That transformation began on day one back in January when the entire team loaded up and headed for Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with the idea of developing leadership skills and bringing the team closer together.
“The spring was good,” Lipscomb head coach Charles Morrow said. “Coming off the fall we had some playing issues we had to work through. There was a sense among the players that there needed to be a change within the group. I think the guys responded really, really well to that this spring.
“I feel the trip to Fort Campbell did a great job of setting the tone for the spring. Some of the team issues that needed to be addressed, I was pretty pleased with overall player buy in.”
With the toughest part out of the way, Morrow’s squad turned its attention to the field. The cohesiveness and the new identity had to be put to the test in training and in games.
The changes seemed to carry over to the pitch as the Bisons wrapped up their spring season with a 4-1 record, highlighted by victories over Belmont and Evansville.
“This spring was a really good time for us to get back to the core of who we are, and what is important to us as a group, and what it meant to be a member on the team,” Morrow said. Everyone proved to each other that they are committed to this process and that they want the same things, which for us, as coaches, was important.
“Obviously we wanted to win, but we weren’t too worried about the results this spring. We tried to put an emphasis on not being result-driven, but more so making sure whether it’s a game or practice, that you are putting in your best work.”
The Bisons opened play back on March 5th when they traveled to take on perennial power UAB at West Campus Field. Lipscomb just came up short, 2-1, in its lone defeat of the spring as rising sophomore Logan Paynter scored the only goal, picking up right where he left off in the fall.
It was almost one month until Lipscomb got back on the pitch, but when it did the offense did not miss a beat. The Bisons traveled to Arad McCutchan Stadium on April 2nd to take on Evansville and close out the road portion of their spring slate. Goals from Scout Monteith, Ivan Alvarado and Paynter proved to be the difference in a 3-1 victory over the Purple Aces.
Lipscomb then began its home grind of three games in six days at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex with an April 9th tilt against in-state foe Cumberland University. Rising sophomore Trystan Innes struck the game-winner in a 1-0 decision over the Phoenix after attempting just two shots in 13 appearances in his freshman campaign.
In a late Wednesday night bout with crosstown rival Belmont on April 13th, Lipscomb wanted to continue its recent string of success over the Bruins.
The Bisons took the pitch looking to avenge their loss to Belmont in the 2015 season opener and after 90 minutes of play, it was back to business as usual for Lipscomb. The Purple and Gold pitched a 2-0 shutout under the lights as Eduardo Reza and Paynter secured the two goals.
Dating back to 2005 the Bisons had gone undefeated at 6-0-2 against Belmont in the regular season prior to their defeat in August.
Lipscomb continued its hot streak by wrapping up the spring schedule with a 5-1 victory over Lee University on April 15th. Although helped by an own goal from Lee, the scoring output was higher than the Bisons scored in any game during the fall. Brandon Braumuller netted his first goal of the five-game slate while Kyle Smith added two.
Paynter then put an exclamation point on the match with his team-leading fourth goal of the spring. He was also the Bisons top goal scorer in 2015 with six tallies en route to earning Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference honors.
In all, Lipscomb had seven different players etch their names in the scoring column while outscoring its opponents 12-4.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the spring was the performance from a defensive unit that, for the most part, struggled to stop its opponents from scoring. The Bisons defense posted two clean sheets in the spring, matching the 2015 season total in 17 games.
The Bisons will begin the 2016 season in August. The full schedule will be released soon on LipscombSports.com.
“The guys have been put into a lot of tough situations from day one of the spring,” Lipscomb assistant coach Peter Lowry said. “Everyone is excited where we are at and the possibilities of things to come this fall. To me that was the most exciting thing about this spring.
“Last year wasn’t an accurate reflection on how good this group could be. So I think there is a renewed excitement for this next season and a new hunger for success.”