By Jim Fenton, The Enteprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The Bridgewater State University men’s soccer team is bidding for a second straight Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference title this season.
The Bears, who appeared in the NCAA Division 3 tournament for the sixth time last fall, return nine players, including four all-conference selections.
Bridgewater State opens the season Friday night, hosting Johnson & Wales University at 5 p.m. at Swenson Field.
The Bears (11-8-2) were the No. 2 seed in the MASCAC tourney after going 5-2, but defeated top-seeded Framingham State, 5-3, for the championship and a spot in the NCAAs. BSU lost to Amherst, 1-0, to end the season.
The top returning player is senior goalkeeper Nate Morgado, a first-team All-MASCAC selection who started all 20 games and had a 1.60 goals against average. Morgado started 18 games with five shutouts as a sophomore and made 10 starts as a freshman.
“He’s very good,” said coach Brendan Adams, now in his 18th season. “He’s got good size, very fast hands. He came in pretty polished, but being familiar with the league and working with the guys around him, he’s matured as a player.
“When a game starts, he’s usually one of the best players on the field. It covers up a lot of mistakes, you hope, the breakdowns here and there, when you have a goalie like him.”
The Bears return three defenders including Zach Ells (one goal, 10 assists) and Stanislaus Sokolov, who both made the all-conference second team, plus Liam Lenihan of Rockland, who started 13 of the 18 games he played.
“Defense,” said Adams, “should be a stronger part of our team.”
The midfield position has experience in Kevin Roberts (eight goals, four assists) and Adam Gold. The Bears graduated four-year starter Kane Moran, a second-team all-conference pick.
Bridgewater State lost its top offensive threat, Kessy Alves of Brockton, to graduation. Alves had nine goals and nine assists and made the All-MASCAC first team and the All-New England Division 3 third team.
Justin Borges, who started 16 games, will be called on to provide offense along with juniors Hatim Brahimi and Shane Ebanks plus freshmen David Nelson of East Bridgewater and Will Halben.
Bridgewater State is the preseason pick in the MASCAC Coaches Poll to win the conference title.
“I think we can be alright if the guys stay the course,″ said Adams. “We’ve got a good work ethic team. We’ve got the capabilities of doing as well as last year, but we’re the hunted instead of the hunter and we’re going to get everyone’s best games.
“The guys definitely have a goal to get back and win it again and go farther. But it’s a process. You can’t go from day one till the end. There’s a process of getting there. We’ve got to do the little things to get the big thing at the end.″
Seven of BSU’s first nine games are on the road, including six in a row. The conference opener is at the Mass. College of Liberal Arts on Sept. 20.