BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Union College has high expectations for the 2009 season after posting back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in since 2001.
The Bulldogs seek to fight past the opening round of the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament. The past two seasons, Union has suffered shootout losses in the first round of the conference tournament.
The returnees provide a solid and experience group of players, but Union head coach Tyler Brock will have to look for more goal scorers as 71 percent (27 of 38 total goals) of the team's goal production in 2008 has left the team. Overall, the roster features five seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores and 12 freshmen with seven returnees having started 15 or more games in 2008.
Union has a 12-match undefeated streak at Burch-Nau Field entering 2009, owning a 10-0-2 record dating back to 2007. The 2009 schedule features 10 home matches, including the Golden Corral Bulldog Classic to open the season. Union will also play University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) in Corbin.
Union will look for juniors Brett Smith (Berea, Ky.) and Tyler Baker (Burlington, Ky.) to supply the scoring in 2009. Baker netted four goals last season, which ranks as the most from any returning player. Smith tallied two goals in 2008.
"I am excited to see what Tyler and Brett have done to improve during the off-season," Brock commented.
The group added Roscoe Moonieyan (East London, South Africa) after he completed his tennis career at Union. "He will bring a nice pace and maturity to the squad," Brock said.
Chris Elliott (Isle of Wight, England) and Dominic Scheele (Clarksville, Tenn.) will give Union additional scoring opportunities, Brock added. Andy Blevins (Burlington, Ky.) will also see time with the forwards. Blevins enters the season after a superb spring season according to Brock.
Junior Jonathan Sutton (Portsmouth, England) is one of two returnees that started all 19 matches in 2008, leading the team with six assists. He also scored a goal en route to an All-AAC Second Team honor.
"He is coming off a great summer with the Cincinnati Kings of the PDL and I am excited to see how his skills have improved," Brock said.
A host of players also will factor into Union's midfield play.
The quartet of Chris Riley (Cornwall, England), Rahul Kooner (Surrey, Canada), Kevin Niehaus (Independence, Ky.) and Kirk Shufflebarger (Cold Springs, Ky.) combined to start 26 times last season and all played in at least 15 contests.
According to Brock, all four bring different aspects to the middle of the field. Shufflebarger is one of five seniors on the squad and has been a solid contributor off the bench. Brock expects Shufflebarger to play a more influential role on the 2009 squad. Riley adds a great pace of play, and Niehaus provides versatility to play in the middle or outside. Kooner will join Sutton in the middle of the field.
Four newcomers will look to play their way onto the field as freshmen: Steven Young (Clarksville, Tenn.), Patrick Hanna (Clarksville, Tenn.), T.J. Jones (Owensboro, Ky.) and Gentry Hayes (Jackson, Ky.). Young brings patience with Hanna and Hayes adding athleticism, while Jones is a crafty midfielder according to the head coach's assessment.
Also included in the group is red-shirt freshman Andy Wiggins (Jefferson City, Tenn.). He can play in the middle and out wide according to Brock.
Aaron Miller and Danny Bartlett (Edgewood, Ky.) anchor the back line. Miller was selected to the All-AAC squad last year while Bartlett has been a three-year starter.
Also returning is sophomore Dan Johnson (Lanchashire, England), who started 16 times as a freshman.
Habib Sanogo (Ivory Coast), Austin Sebald (Union, Ky.) and Kyle Hathorn (Burlington, Ky.) will also compete for time in the unit. Meanwhile, newcomers Brandon McClinchey (Adrian, Mich.) and Jake White (Port Orange, Fla.) add depth for the squad. Edwin Hobson (Dayton, Ohio) will also factor in the defensive unit after spending two seasons at Cincinnati State Community College.
The final element of Union's squad is led by junior Jonathan Shaw (Merseyside, England). Shaw started 18 times in 2008 with a 9-5-4 record which includes five shutouts. He recorded 67 saves in 85 shots on goal.
"He can play big," Brock said about his 6-foot-7 goalkeeper. Brock also added that he is looking for more consistent play out of Shaw.
Shaw was named the NAIA Defensive Player of the Week in November. He also picked up a pair of AAC Defensive Player of the Week honors last season.
Competing with Shaw will be the senior duo of Max Sisson (Corbin, Ky.) and Nathan Koebcke (Corinth, Ky.). Sisson saw time in five matches while Koebcke played three times in 2008.
Brock will look for newcomer Kyle Applebee (Clarksville, Tenn.) to come in and raise the level of keeper play. According to Brock, Applebee understands the goalkeeper position and has a high level of athletic ability.