Rebecca Kiss/Photography Editor Coming off a three-goal and five-assist season, sophomore midfielder Noah Luescher is expected to be a central part of the Bearcats’ 2018 game plan.

As summer rolls into fall, the Binghamton men’s soccer team is preparing for a new season and a fresh start. Despite its impressive lineup last year, a lack of fitness made for a disappointing 2017 season, which failed to result in a trip to the America East (AE) Tournament. This year, the team is looking to make a comeback.

“All spirits are terrific, the guys are flying, fitness is OK, little better than it was last year,” said BU head coach Paul Marco.

At preseason media day in early August, Marco seemed optimistic about the upcoming season and the physical capability of his players, and expressed his interest in using different techniques than those employed last year.

“I’m open to new ideas, new ways,” Marco said. “I try to stay fresh with the modern game, and some of that is we need a little more downtime. We can’t push the guys if they’re not as fit as they needed to be.”

This year, in addition to some outside talent, Marco added two new local players to the Binghamton squad: freshman midfielder Parker McKnight and freshman back Carter Beaulieu, both part of the Class of 2018 of nearby Vestal High School.

“One of the local guys, [McKnight], is out all season with an injury,” Marco said. “The other one is finding his way, as all the freshmen kind of do … Really excited about [Beaulieu]. He’s done really well on the fitness tests.”

The Binghamton team is also returning a number of key players from last season, including sophomore midfielder Noah Luescher, senior forward Nikos Psarras and graduate student midfielder Kevin Flesch.

Luescher, a breakout star last season, earned three goals and five assists over the course of play. He earned the honor of AE Rookie of the Year at the close of the 2017 season as a result of his accomplishments.

“He’s coming back a little hungrier, he’s looked fitter … the thirst that he has for the ball right now is at an all-time high,” Marco said on Luescher. “He’s been outstanding on the ball.”

The players themselves also expressed excitement over not only the new season, but also the new additions to the team.

“I feel like we have a good freshman class coming in, and this year we have a lot of seniors, and I hope that we can lead by example,” Flesch said.

Luescher echoed Flesch’s sentiments and expanded upon the comeback the team hopes it can make this year.

“Not making the tournament was devastating and I think we got really, really big goals this season, so it was disappointing [last season], but we’re really confident this year and I think we can make it far,” Luescher said.

Having already faced Niagara in a scrimmage earlier this week, the team looks to take on its first match of the nonconference season this Friday, Aug. 24 at Drexel University, while its first home game will not take place until Tuesday, Aug. 28.

Kickoff for the match against Drexel is slotted for Friday at 7:30 p.m. from the Vidas Athletic Complex in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.