NASHVILLE, Tenn. - As the Lipscomb men’s soccer team finds its way back to the pitch this week in preparation for the 2016 campaign, we take a look back at how the summer went for a number of standout Bisons across the country.
Six players, stretching from coast-to-coast, competed in both the Premier Development League and the National Premier Soccer League.
Highlighting the group is redshirt senior Jose Chavez and two-time ASUN first team all-conference member Ivan Alvarado, who had the opportunity to travel to Oregon and compete with the Portland Timbers U-23’s.
The club competed in its eighth season in the Northwest Division of the PDL and is historically heralded as one of the top teams in the league, but they missed the playoffs with a 2-7-5 record this summer.
For Chavez though the experience was not all about winning and losing, but how to become a better player.
“I learned how important it is to move the ball at a fast pace in order to be successful, and also how important disciplined defending is in order to get to the next level,” Chavez said.
The Longmont, Colorado native played 93 minutes over two matches, but found a way to contribute. He picked up an assist on the road against the Washington Crossfire in his only start of the summer. That helper was tied for the team lead.
Alvarado saw action in four matches where he drew a start and played the full match against Lane United FC. The second-leading goal scorer for the Bisons from a season ago only managed one shot in his time with the Timbers.
Defender Cameron Botes ventured back to his hometown and spent the summer in the PDL with the Charlotte Eagles Soccer Club. Botes started and captained the squad for a team-high 14 games and 1084 minutes.
He anchored a stingy Eagles defense that produced a team record 10 shutouts and allowed only eight goals en route to an 11-2-1 record, a South Atlantic Division title and an Eastern Conference regular season championship.
Botes was named to the PDL National Team of the Week once during the regular season and finished the summer as a member of the All PDL Eastern Conference Team.
“I learned that what is most important is not always who has the most talented players, but what team can have a team-first mindset in order to come together and perform at a high level as one unit rather than playing for an individual benefit,” said Botes.
After leading the Bison to three shutouts in 2015, Botes is primed for a big junior campaign and he cannot wait to get back on the pitch with his teammates this fall.
“I am most looking forward to getting our new incoming players integrated into the squad with our returning veterans and begin working together so everyone is on the same page physically and mentally,” said Botes. “We have some quality players coming in and mixed with the talent we have returning, we should be in a good position to make a run at the ASUN Conference title.
“We are working to accomplish things that the school has never done before.”
Rising redshirt sophomore Logan Paynter also returned to his hometown of Bradenton, Florida where he competed with IMG Academy in the Southeast Division of the PDL.
Paynter, a 2015 ASUN first team all-conference and all-freshman team selection, played 582 minutes over 11 matches. He closed the summer with one goal on seven shot attempts. His strike came in a 3-1 victory over SW Florida Adrenaline. IMG closed the summer at 4-9-1 overall.
He finished the fall season with a breakout campaign for the Bisons where he led the team with six goals and 12 points. Paynter is expected to have a heavy role up front for Lipscomb this fall.
Entering his final season in the Purple and Gold, rising senior goalkeeper Micah Bledsoe chose to stay in town and spend the summer with Nashville FC in the NSPL.
“It was special to be able to represent the city of Nashville,” Bledsoe said. “There are a lot of fans that have a tremendous amount of pride for this city.”
Bledsoe started six matches in net for Nashville (3-0-7) and helped the defense pitch two shutouts while on the field. The Cincinnati native talked about how he will translate what he learned with Nashville onto the pitch this fall for the Bisons.
“It was nice to get the experience of playing with different players from around the region,” Bledsoe said. “Having to play with a team that was new and had limited time together really challenged me. But I think it will help me develop how I communicate and keep our team organized in the back.
A 2016 newcomer and VCU transfer Ivan Sakou spent his summer with Fredricksburg FC where they finished 6-2-2 and claimed a share of the Mid-Atlantic Conference title in the NPSL.
Sakou played in four matches and scored one goal for his squad.
Chavez knows that in order for the Bisons to have a successful season and make a deep postseason run in November, the journey starts at practice.
“We have a very talented team and we should have a very successful season this fall, but in order for that to happen, we have to put in the work in training.”
Lipscomb will play its first tune-up of the preseason Tuesday, August 16 when it travels to play Cincinnati at 4 p.m. Following a second exhibition match, the Bisons will open the regular season Friday, August 26 with a match against Florida Atlantic in the Lipscomb/Belmont Challenge at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.