As the new fall semester gets underway, the 2019 men’s soccer season is around the corner, and after a disappointing 2018 season, the team is looking to improve upon its record.

In the 2018 season, the Bearcats mustered just three wins. While the start of the season was plagued by losses, the start of conference play looked promising for BU, as it won its first two America East (AE) matches, including upsetting eventual conference champion New Hampshire. The Bearcats, however, lost their momentum, ending the season with seven straight defeats.

To try and right the ship, BU head coach Paul Marco has made changes to how he runs his preseason practices. The team is doing fitness testing throughout the season rather than at the beginning and has decreased its practices from two per day to one.

“We wanted to try to keep the guys as fresh as we could,” Marco said. “We’ve only been in a week and classes [have begun], so the volume on the guys’ legs has been a lot less than in normal seasons. What’s really important for us is that we keep the guys healthy, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”

While the team lost some key players, last season’s top scorer, junior midfielder Noah Luescher, is returning as a co-captain alongside graduate student defender Stephen McKenna.

“I think our two captains have come back with open minds and expanded hearts and the eagerness to lead the group,” Marco said. “I think Stephen McKenna and Noah Luescher have done a great job. They helped bring a young group of guys close together.”

Last season, Luescher led the team with three goals and four assists, started in all 17 games and was named the AE Offensive Player of the Week. Luescher picked up an injury over the summer and missed most of the preseason, but he has since returned to the field and has opportunity to showcase his leadership skills, which will be needed with the Bearcats welcoming 12 freshmen onto the team.

“I think it’s one of the hardest things to get everyone on the same page, because everyone comes in from high school and their club teams, and they were all starters,” Luescher said. “Now they might sit on the bench for a while, but I think they’re doing a great job of keeping the spirit of the team high.”

Of the 12 new freshmen, the team welcomes one local player: freshman forward Dan Mansfield. Mansfield, a native of Vestal, was captain of his high school team for two years and a 2018 New York State Public High School Athletic Association All-State selection. In his senior season, he scored 14 goals. Alongside Mansfield, Marco is excited to see what the large group of new faces brings to the team.

“The thing that’s been impressive so far is the speed of all the guys,” Marco said. “Now how quickly they can adjust and adapt to the combativeness, the intelligence of Division I, will be their challenge.”

The Bearcats will face Drexel at home in their season opener this year, and they have a chance to avenge their loss to the Dragons in last year’s season opener, which the Bearcats dropped 3-2 on the road. They will kick off their 2019 campaign on at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30 at the Bearcats Sports Complex in Vestal, New York.