NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Lipscomb men's soccer team took to the pitch this week and opened fall camp in preparation for the 2016 season. After spending much of Wednesday focusing on their fitness, the Bisons began team practice Thursday with sessions in the morning and afternoon.
It is sometimes hard to judge after just the first day of training, but head coach Charles Morrow was pleased with what he saw.
“Even though it was only our second day of preseason, I thought it has been a couple of good days,” Morrow said. “In terms of team chemistry, I think we are ahead of a lot of groups right now.
“It was great to get on the field Thursday and get a look at our guys after they’ve been on their own this summer. I appreciate the hard work they all put in in order to come back in shape and ready to go. We are happy with the progress so far and I can’t wait until tomorrow.”
Morrow enters his 12th year at the helm of the program and will go into the season with 80 career wins in Nashville.
The Bisons, who finished third in the ASUN a season ago, return 18 players from a team that finished 6-10-1 overall and made the conference semifinals for a seventh time in nine seasons . Included in that group are 10 guys who made starts. In addition to the returnees, Lipscomb has brought in 11 fresh faces, which include 10 freshmen and a transfer.
Lipscomb returns three of its top five goal scores from 2015 in redshirt sophomore Logan Paynter, junior Ivan Alvarado and senior Daniel Vieira.
Paynter broke out in a big way last season, leading the team and finishing third in the conference with six goals on his way to earning first team all-conference and all-freshman honors.
Alvarado closed an injury-riddled campaign with four scores and four assists. His 12 points tied Paynter for the team lead. Alvarado is a two-time first team all-conference member. He became the fifth Bison in program history last season to be named All-Southeast Region after landing a spot on the third team.
Vieira earned a spot on the Academic All-Conference in 2015. He saw action in 14 matches and produced two goals and two assists for the first points of his career.
Helping anchor a defense that hopes to be much improved this fall is goal keeper Micah Bledsoe. He enters his final season for the Purple and Gold and will return as the most experienced keeper in the league. Bledsoe has started in net 40 times for the Bisons, racking up 10 clean sheets. He was named to College Soccer News Team of the Week last season after guiding the Bisons to a win over No. 10 Xavier where he collected a season high seven saves.
Senior Troy Barr was itching to get back on the pitch after missing all of 2015 with an injury.
“To be honest this is probably the most excited I have ever been about a team in my five years,” Barr said. “We get a lot of players back from injury as well as a good group of freshmen.
“The things we can accomplish this season are amazing. The sky is the limit for us.”
In Barr’s five years at Lipscomb he has seen a lot of ups and a lot of downs, but for the East Petersburg, Pennsylvania native, he believes this is the year for the Bisons to take the program to the next level.
“Our goal is to win a national championship,” Barr said. “Any team that steps on the field and isn’t trying to win a championship, what are they really doing?
“We want to win the ASUN regular season and then also the tournament for the first time. Every year we get to the semifinals and we can’t seem to get it done. This year we have to find the right lineup and be ready to get it done.”