The Crowder Roughriders have a new head coach in Steven Harrison for their 11th season, their first season after the retirement of program patriarch Brad Smith.
Coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons, including a program record 15 two seasons ago, Harrison and the 'Riders have established their own goals for the 2018 season.
"Be the No. 1 seed heading into the region tournament," Harrison said. "Win that tournament and advance to the district championship. If we win that we then make the national tournament. Take this program to a higher level than it's been."
The 'Riders do return Evandro Conceicao, Phillips Gomez, Tyrique Lake, Lucas Melli, David Portilla, Augusto Prado, and former Neosho High standout Francisco Reyes, but feature a slew of newcomers under their new head coach.
"Offseason workouts during the summer, the guys are on their own," Harrison said. "They were given a plan to follow and for the most part, it looks like they did a good job. Sebastian Smeed has stood out. He is very technical on the ball. Salvador Gonzalez from Springdale is a really good player that will do big things for us.
"They have been great. We are doing it slowly over the preseason. The returners wanted better training and I think they have gotten that. They are coached more now and tactically, they understand the objectives we are trying to do."
How will the 'Riders achieve their goals?
"Everyone needs to get along," Harrison said. "Stay away from injuries. Everyone knows our goals so the players are on a single track and all on the same page."
Harrison's teams experienced success at Neosho County (Kansas) and in 2014, his final season in Chanute, Harrison won Jayhawk Conference coach of the year as the Panthers logged a 14-4-1 overall and 8-1 conference record.
Crowder opens its 2018 season Wednesday against Jayhawk Conference member Johnson County, an addition to the schedule this season that Harrison called one of the toughest opponents for the 'Riders. Johnson County finished 8-10-1 last season, but had won double-digit matches in four of the five previous seasons.
Crowder opens at home the next Wednesday against Murray State (Oklahoma) and then opens Region 16 play Saturday, September 8, on the road against St. Charles.
In the last couple seasons, the Archers of St. Louis have been the Region 16 powerhouse, highlighted by a 23-1 overall record last season. Pima (Arizona) defeated St. Louis 3-1 to earn a spot in the NJCAA Division I semifinals.
Harrison also mentioned Jefferson and East Central as being the toughest opponents this season, the usual Region 16 suspects. The 'Riders finished fourth in Region 16 play last season and won one tournament game before running into St. Louis in the semis.
"We will have a deep bench," Harrison said, "which will help in games. We have a lot of speed on the wings that will cause problems on a big field like our home field."
Freshmen goalkeepers Andres Aldaco, Santiago Garcia, and Collin Keatts have the challenge of replacing Daniel Ost, who earned all-Region 16 first team honors last season and finished with 73 saves and seven shutouts. Ost signed with NAIA MidAmerica Nazarene after playing his two seasons at Crowder.
Aldaco played goalie on a Springdale (Arkansas) team that finished 19-2-1 and reached the Class 7A semifinals where the Bulldogs lost a 2-1 match to eventual state champion Fort Smith Northside.
Keatts may be familiar to Neosho soccer fans, since he was the keeper last fall for the Wildcats' conference and district rival Webb City. Keatts helped the Cardinals reach a district title game with a 1-0 shutout against Carl Junction.
Gomez and Portilla are the only returning players who scored goals last season and each of them netted one.
Smeed joins Crowder from the United Kingdom, and he was promoted by the College Prospects of America in the spring. Gonzalez played high school ball at Springdale.
Meanwhile, Harrison also mentioned Daniel Doherty as another player who's been looking good thus far in the preseason.
Aug. 11 — vs. John Brown (exhibition)
Aug. 15 — vs. Allen County (exhibition)
Aug. 17 — at Southwest Baptist (exhibition)
Aug. 22 — at Johnson County
Aug. 25 — at Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa
Aug. 29 — vs. Murray State
Sept. 1 — at Rose State
Sept. 4 — vs. Eastern Oklahoma
Sept. 8 — at St. Charles
Sept. 13 — vs. Central Baptist
Sept. 15 — vs. State Fair
Sept. 18 — at Neosho County
Sept. 23 — at East Central
Sept. 25 — vs. Metropolitan Community College
Sept. 27 — at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M
Oct. 1 — at Murray State
Oct. 6 — at Jefferson
Oct. 9 — vs. Coffeyville
Oct. 13 — vs. St. Louis
Oct. 14 — vs. Northeastern Oklahoma A&M
No. Name Year
2 Tyrique Lake SO
3 Lucas Melli SO
4 Phillips Gomez SO
5 Jacob Fallaize FR
6 Pablo Cortes FR
7 Daniel Doherty FR
8 Evandro Conceicao SO
9 Jovel Bardoo FR
10 Sebastian Smeed FR
11 Salvador Gonzalez FR
12 Juan Sanchez FR
13 Francisco Reyes SO
14 Mikael Munyagia FR
15 Elder Reyes FR
16 Jason Mendoza FR
17 Sergio Becerra FR
18 David Portilla SO
19 Alex Balderas FR
20 Gabriel Fernandez FR
21 Tyler Porras FR
22 Willie Hernandez FR
23 Cesar Somoza SO
24 Alan Acuna FR
25 Augusto Prado SO
26 Danny Lindo FR
GK Andres Aldaco FR
GK Santiago Garcia FR
GK Collin Keatts FR
Head coach — Steven Harrison
Assistant coach — Erik Pereira