LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- Coming off an improved season last year, the Covenant men's soccer team seeks to continue climbing in 2018. The Scots open the season at home on Friday, Aug. 31 against Tennessee Wesleyan (7 p.m.) in the David Taaffe Invitational.
Covenant, under second-year head coach Scott Bosgraf, advanced to the semifinals of the USA South Tournament last season after winning nine matches, the most the program had won in three years. The focus now for Bosgraf and his squad is improving on last year's progress and moving up the ranks in the USA South.
Bosgraf's team returns eight starters and 17 players overall from last season's team. The top five goal scorers from last year return, led by senior Carl Simakoff who collected six goals in 2017. Junior Josh Brower, last year's leader in total points, returns after netting four goals and nine assists. Fellow juniors Jesse Riggs and Anthony Buzzeo are set to return along with senior Ethan Pettit.
All told, Covenant returns players that accounted for 33 of the team's 37 goals from last year.
The keeper position is one spot that is clearly open. The Scots return only one goalie, junior Paul Lemay, who played in a contest last season. Lemay will be joined in the keeper battle with sophomore Isaac Schoutko and freshman Henry Hooks.
The recruiting class is one that is full of potential. A heavy dose of local talent peppers the freshman class as four players (Austin Berry, Hooks, Mercer Stout, and Keegan Weekley) come from the Chattanooga area. Bosgraf expects the talented newcomers to make an impact throughout the program.
The Scots hit the ground running with matches on back-to-back days to open the year as they host the David Taaffe Invitational on Friday against Tennessee Wesleyan (7 p.m.) and then Saturday against Millsaps (2:30 p.m.). The non-conference schedule also includes Mary Hardin-Baylor (Sept. 8 in Atlanta, Ga.) and at home against Birmingham Southern (Sept. 14).
A key stretch in early season conference play is from Sept. 15-26 as Covenant plays four of five USA South matches at home. Included in that stretch are home dates against Averett (Sept. 21) and Greensboro (Sept. 22), two teams that Covenant took to overtime last season but could not earn a victory against. Also within that 11-day portion of the schedule is the annual Homecoming match as the Scots take on Brevard (Sept. 15).
Covenant then finishes off the conference regular season slate with home matches against Huntingdon (Oct. 19) and William Peace (Oct. 20). The Scots were picked to finish second in the USA South West Division in the league's preseason poll. Covenant placed third last year, just barely behind Piedmont for second place.
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