After a decent 2017 season, the Shippensburg University men’s soccer team will look to make a mark in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) this season.
The Raiders finished with a 7–8–2 record last season, falling short of making it into the playoffs. Coach Jeremy Spering and the team had a primary goal for the campaign of reaching the playoffs. He was disappointed that the squad fell short, but was pleased with the effort he saw all season.
A few key injuries hurt the Raiders last season, one of the more damaging being the loss of midfielder Patrick Luebben. Luebben has been one of the driving forces behind SU’s success since he arrived as an international student in 2015.
After competing in almost every match in the 2016 season, Luebben was limited to only seven appearances last season while dealing with a leg injury. Even though his time on the field was cut in half, his contributions on the score sheet remained the same. Luebben scored five goals and had one assist, the same numbers he had in his full 2016 season.
Luebben will look to continue his great form in his final season for the Raiders. While Luebben was recovering, forward Cole Kropnick transformed into a goal-scoring machine. The then-junior was SU’s most reliable weapon, scoring almost at will for the majority of the season. Kropnick finished 2017 with 10 goals — the highest mark for a Raider since 2013 — and three assists.
SU will need to fill in two major holes on defense this season after mainstays Jamie Blair and Jan Striewe both graduated last year. Striewe, along with Kropnick, were the only two Raiders to be named to the 2017 All-PSAC team. Striewe — an international student from Germany — and Blair — an international student from Scotland — had been starters in the middle of the back line since they arrived at SU and were always reliable in defense as well as strong on offense.
While the Raiders lost key pieces of the squad, several players like Luebben and Kropnick are still hungry, joined by other key pieces from last season’s squad like Colin Marks. Marks was second on the team with 11 points. He contributed four goals and three assists across 16 starts. Marks was also a reliable force in the midfield and helped create several opportunities in attack.
There are 12 freshmen who will be competing for starting roles in the squad, so there will almost certainly be a new look to the team. In the preseason PSAC coaches poll, the Raiders were ranked eighth in the conference behind rivals Millersville University and West Chester University.
The Raiders will kick off their season Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against Chestnut Hill College at David See Field.