Men’s soccer looks ahead to 2019


NVU-Johnson Athletics

2019 men’s soccer team

After making the playoffs and hosting a first-round playoff game a year ago, the men’s soccer team is looking to repeat their previous success and move farther in the postseason.

The team has started the season with a record of 2-1 with wins versus Vermont Tech twice. Freshman midfielder Aibek Allan Bijanov was named North Atlantic Conference Rookie of The Week for his two goals in each of the two Vermont Tech games.

Third-year Head Coach Shane Bufano has brought in recruits from all over the map, from as close as Johnson, Vt. and as far as Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Bufano believes his long-distance recruiting has and will continue to make a huge impact for his team.

“We were typically getting large volumes of athletes,” he said. “[the selling point was] trying to be a part of one of the first winning teams in the NAC here. Guys are really motivated by that. We also travel a little bit more for recruiting out of the region. Coach Kyle and I went to Texas, Portland and Miami to look for some talent and it definitely paid off. I think those guys will definitely factor in very well. A couple of players have made an impact already. Zach in goal, coming from the German and Spanish academy, and Ibek was rookie of the week. It gives us a little bit more technical ability versus physical ability, which has been kind of been like in the past.”

The preseason polls were released just before the season started, with the Badgers picked to finish sixth in the conference. Despite what other teams think, sophomore Nate Gomez believes that the team can still finish at the top.

“I feel like we want to shock a couple teams this year,” he said. “We got ranked sixth in the conference preseason poll. Obviously, we know that we are better than that, so we are going to shock people.”
One of Bufano’s biggest focuses this year is culture. He notes from previous years’ teams that it has been a struggle but he hopes that they can correct that and help lead them to success.

“We definitely have a new attitude this year, which has been helpful,” he said. “Last couple of years, I thought we had a lot of mentality issues and it’s been something we worked on all off-season with recruiting. This year, it’s definitely been better with preseason and during seasonal training. We had hiccups, but we have worked a lot on training ourselves mentally for adversity and getting through that. We have always felt that we have enough talent to be at the top of the conference, but it’s always been that mental gap that’s gotten us to not push over to that extra hump.”

Leading that culture change are the captains of this year’s team: senior Daniel Arriola and sophomores Wyatt Moberg and Arthur Clayton. Bufano liked that he has second-year players help lead his team.
“The idea around that was that we want to progress on a four-year basis, not a one-year basis,” he said. “Having some continuity with captains and leadership, especially at the Division III level where the coaches don’t have face time with the guys all year once the season ends. We only get five weeks in the spring, so we wanted to have connections with those captains who are motivated and helping with that leadership with the younger guys.”

At the end of the day, the team is looking to take the next step and win the NAC Championship.
“We aren’t just looking to make playoffs, which was the goal of the [athletic] department when I took over,” Bufano said. “We overachieved last year as we made and hosted a playoff game. The goal is to host a playoff game and reach the final, if not win the final.”