BOWLING GREEN – The Bowling Green State University men's soccer team begins the 2012 regular season with three consecutive home games. The Falcons of head coach Eric Nichols open that three-match homestand Saturday night (Aug. 25), as Saint Bonaventure University comes to Cochrane Field. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m., and a number of former Falcons will be in attendance for the 'Alumni Night' match.
In addition to the alumni, another long-time member of the BGSU program will be in attendance – on the opposite bench – on Saturday night. Mel Mahler, who became the SBU head coach in 2005, spent 17 years with the Falcon men's soccer program, including assistant-coaching stints from 1987-92 and in 1994. He served as the interim head coach in '93, and was the head coach from 1995-2003. Mahler's career head-coaching record at BGSU was 111-76-13 (.586), and he guided the Falcons to three MAC regular-season championships, three league tournament titles and three-straight trips to the NCAA Championships from 1995-97.
Live stats for Saturday night's match, and for all BGSU home contests, will be available via BGSUFalcons.com.
The Falcons' lone dress rehearsal saw BGSU fall, 2-1, at Oakland on Friday afternoon (Aug. 17). The Golden Grizzlies scored twice within the first 11 minutes of the match. BGSU got a goal from sophomore Danny Baraldi midway through the last of the three scheduled 30-minute periods, but the Brown and Orange could not notch the equalizer.
Junior Michael Wiest played the first two periods of the scrimmage in goal, while freshman Nick Landsberger was in net for the final 30 minutes. Each BGSU goalkeeper made one save.
Nichols has steadily moved the Falcons forward since his arrival in 2009. After going 3-12-3 in that first season, BG posted a 6-9-3 record in 2010. Phrased another way, the Brown and Orange produced a result (a win or a tie) in half of the 2010 matches, after doing so just one-third of the time in '09.
Last season, the Falcons got a result in 56 percent of the matches, going 7-8-3. That mark included a 4-2-1 record at Cochrane Field.
The 2012 Falcons will play all 10 home matches under the lights, after BG played two night games at Cochrane Field late in the 2011 season. The Cochrane Field lights project, made possible in large part by donations from BGSU men's soccer alumni, was completed in October of 2011.
Last week, the Falcons were picked to finish sixth in the Mid-American Conference, according to the league's preseason coaches poll. Akron was picked to capture the regular-season and tournament titles in the poll, the result of voting by the league's eight head coaches.
Nichols and his staff – assistants Charlie Edwards, Paul Habrecht and Greg Hennelly – return 13 letterwinners, including six starters, from last year. The list of returnees includes three seniors, including fifth-year Falcon Zach Lemke and fourth-year seniors Joey D'Agostino and Chris McLean. Redshirt junior Brandon Silva joins D'Agostino and Lemke as tri-captains of the 2012 Falcons.
Lemke was one of just three Falcons to start all 18 matches a year ago, and all three of those players return. Baraldi and junior Zach Schewee each were in the starting 11 for every match last fall.
Baraldi was recently named to the Preseason All-MAC Team by College Sports Madness. The sophomore, who was named to the second team by the web site, led the Falcons in goals (five), assists (eight) and points (18) a year ago.
Baraldi was involved in the scoring of 13 of the team's 22 goals a season ago, and was named to the All-Ohio Team in his first year on campus. He led all NCAA Division-I freshmen in assists and assists per game (0.44) in 2011.
Lemke and Silva tied for fourth on the team, and second among returning players, with seven points apiece a year ago. Silva had three goals and an assist, while Lemke had a pair of goals and was second on the team with three helpers. Both players got it done in the classroom as well, as each made the Academic All-Ohio Team, while Silva and Wiest earned Academic All-MAC honors.
Wiest, a junior, started 13 matches last season, and had six complete-match shutouts and a goals-against average of just 1.08. In front of Wiest, Schewee is the lone returning starter on the back line. Schewee has started all 36 matches since coming to BGSU.
Junior Ryan Snashall made 14 starts last season and scored four points, while classmate Ryan Comiskey had six points and led the team in points per minute. D'Agostino, juniors Matt Griesinger and Sean Sikich and sophomore Jon Kumher each started between four and six matches last fall.
The 2012 roster includes 11 newcomers, with three transfers among that group. Two of those transfers, junior Anthony Grant (McKendree [Ill.] Univ.) and sophomore Vlad Lekarev (Butler Univ.), enrolled at BGSU prior to the Spring 2012 semester and participated in spring practices with the Falcons.
Saint Bonaventure finished the 2011 season with an overall record of 4-12-3 and an Atlantic 10 Conference mark of 0-7-2. The Bonnies scored 15 goals last season, and saw 12 of their matches decided by one goal or less. Mahler returns 100% of last season's scoring to the 2012 roster, led by James Reed, who had five goals a year ago. The Bonnies were picked to finish 15th in the league in 2012, according to the A-10 coaches poll.
The Falcons hold a 3-2-0 lead in the all-time series with SBU, but the Bonnies have won the last two meetings, including a 4-1 victory at Cochrane Field in the most recent matchup, on Sept. 5, 2004. The teams have met in the regular-season opener on two prior occasions, and split those two meetings, including a 2-0 BGSU victory in Akron on Aug. 30, 1997, and a home win for the Bonnies on Aug. 31, 2002.
Following Saturday's SBU match, the Falcons will prepare for two more home games next week. BGSU will welcome Michigan State to town on Wednesday (Aug. 29) before hosting Marshall on Saturday (Sept. 1). Both matches are scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m.