COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Dominican's men's soccer team will begin its 2017 season this week with home matches against Urbana and Ashland.
The 12th-ranked Blue Knights of Urbana will make the trip to Columbus on Thursday, August 31 for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in the 17th match between the two squads that compete for the I-70 cup. Ashland will make the trip to Sunbury Road on Sunday, September 3 for a non-conference match with ODU at 2:30 p.m.
About Ohio Dominican
The Panthers are eager to begin the 2017 regular season after exhibition matches with Indianapolis, Thomas More and Tiffin this preseason.
ODU finished the 2016 regular season with seven GLIAC victories and will look for a strong start to the 2017 campaign under 10th-year head coach Willy Merrick.
The Panthers return their top goal-scorer from 2016 in junior Ryan Kasprzak (Hilliard, Ohio), who enters his third year with 16 goals and five assists in his career. Sophomore Cameron Christian (Pataskala, Ohio) will look to also add to ODU's offensive attack after scoring four goals as a freshman. Junior forward Jonathan Barnes (Winter Haven, Florida) will look to make an impact in his first season at Ohio Dominican after scoring 18 goals at Division III-member Finlandia.
Defensively, ODU returns a bevy of experience, with juniors Babacar Ba (Columbus, Ohio) and Phillip Kelly (Canal Winchester, Ohio) and sophomores Matthew Pardi (Worthington, Ohio), Demarco Andrews (Kingston, Jamaica) and Noah Kiser (Mason, Ohio) combining for 61 starts in 2016.
The Blue Knights were tabbed 12th in the United Soccer Coaches preseason rankings and were picked to finish second in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) in the league's coaches poll.
UU scored a 2-1 win over Ohio Dominican in the 2016 battle for the I-70 cup but Ohio Dominican leads the all-time series, 11-2-3.
Urbana returns just four from a squad that finished as MEC tournament runner-up in 2016, a season in which the Blue Knights set a school record for wins with 14 and outscored their opponents 48-17.
The Eagles were tabbed sixth in the GLIAC preseason coaches poll and finished 6-11-1 in 2016. ODU went 1-1 against AU a season ago, including a 5-1 victory over the Eagles on October 23 at Panther Stadium.
Ashland returns six starters while also welcoming 18 newcomers this season. Liam Duncan and Andrew Pearson will look to lead the squad after ranking as two of the team's top three assist leaders in 2016.
Contact: Aaron McPherson