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Friday, 23 August 2013 11:35

BU Eyes Return To National Tournament

Baker will begin the 2013 season this Saturday at No. 15 ranked Ashford University Baker will begin the 2013 season this Saturday at No. 15 ranked Ashford University

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – The Baker University men's soccer team will return to the pitch this season without the services of 11 graduating senior players from its team a year ago.

Despite the heavy graduation losses, the 2013 team will return some high-powered players, including all-conference performers Richard Klein and Andy Griffin plus midfielder Ben Coyle and goalkeeper and 2011 NAIA All-American Matt Bickley.

But longtime Baker head soccer coach and BU Hall of Famer Nate Houser is excited for the challenge of bringing in a large class of new players to complete a roster of 39.

"We have gone out and replaced some elements and some pieces that I believe we have been missing," said Houser. "I think we will be a little bit more industrious and more blue collar, and that is going to serve us. We really like the type of players we have brought in on the men's team. We signed guys who are character driven and have some speed. They should fit in nicely with the guys we have coming back."

The 2012 season was full of ups and downs. Baker came into the season ranked No. 2 in the country, faced a loaded nonconference schedule and began the season at 0-3-1.

But with its first win coming on Sept. 12 at home against Park University, Baker finished the nonconference season 2-0-2 after that stretch before beginning the HAAC season.

Baker went 5-2 in conference and finished in second place, missing the postseason for the first time since 2009.

To return to the national tournament, the Wildcats will need a strong performance in the HAAC regular season and potentially an HAAC tournament title.

"The level of play in the HAAC is second to none," said Houser. "We have had Final Four teams the last few years and we had a national champion come out of the HAAC in the last seven or eight years. If you look at the teams, there are some with a lot of foreign players who are a little more sophisticated that you have to prepare for and there are teams that put in a ton of work that are organized and are really good.

"And that is a credit to the coaches in the league. I think the coaches in our league are top-notch problem solvers and they keep their teams prepared and ready. And that is the challenge we face. Can we match that? Can we challenge that? We are excited to test ourselves again."

Baker does return its top two scorers from a year ago. Griffin is back after having scored a team-high seven goals in 2012 and Klein scored six, good for second on the team.

Bickley received NAIA All-American honorable mention in 2011 and last season started in eight matches and led the team with 35 saves.

The 39-man roster will consist of eight seniors, two juniors, 12 sophomores and 17 freshmen.

Baker received 52 points and are just one spot out of the NAIA Men's Soccer Coaches' Top 25 poll, which was announced this week.

The Wildcats will take on No. 15 ranked Ashford University this Saturday, Aug. 24 in the season opener at 2:30 p.m. and will open up the home season on Sunday, Aug. 25 as they take on AIB College of Business at 2:30 p.m. at North Park.

Live video and live stats will be available for the road match at Ashford and live stats will be available for the home match against AIB. Fans can access the links at www.bakerwildcats.com.

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