EMU men's soccer defender Joao "Chris" Downs
Defender Joao "Chris" Downs returns for a final season on the EMU men's soccer team. The 2014 Royals are a handful of games into a demanding season.

2014 men’s soccer team to ride work ethic back into the ODAC tourney

The Eastern Mennonite University men’s soccer team is counting on a mix of experience and new faces to boost them back to the ODAC Tournament this fall.  The Royals return a number of players from a balanced 2013 squad, but longtime Coach Roger Mast expects a core of incoming athletes to push for spots on the field.

As of Monday, Sept. 22 the team is 2-4-2, with several double overtime games under their belt. Mast hopes that competitive edge puts his team back into the postseason tourney for the 22nd time in his 24 years at the helm.

Lessons learned from 2013 season

Dr. Roger Mast, Head Coach of EMU Men's Soccer Team
Dr. Roger Mast, Head Coach of EMU Men’s Soccer Team

“The 2013 season was one that I would capture as being one of near misses: one game out of making the ODAC Tournament and numerous one goal losses,” Mast explained. “That plays into our team this fall in that we will train to compete. Much of our training will be geared towards competition. We want to instill in our 2014 team a competitive will and work ethic that will turn those close matches into victories.”

The Royals had five one-goal losses last year, including four in conference play. Two of those were in overtime. A win in any of those games would have given EMU the three points they needed to make a jump in the ODAC standings to make the tourney.

In Mast’s mind, his team needs to play their “A” game for every conference outing.

“The competitive balance in the ODAC is hardly fair,” he said. “We must come to play our best each time we have an ODAC opponent on our slate. There is not a team that we can take lightly. The preparation that it takes for each conference team is critical, but even more crucial is having the team intensity and work ethic at a high level for each of these matches.”

All-ODAC players return for new season

Headlining the returners is a pair of former All-ODAC honorees, although one was a pleasant surprise return.

Senior Mark Mast
Senior Mark Mast got his first goal of the year a mere 1:23 into the Royals Sept. 6 game. (photo by Scott Eyre)

Midfielder Mark Mast (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite) is back for his senior season playing for his father. He had three goals and four assists last year, tying for the team lead with 10 points. Mast was an All-ODAC Third Team honoree as a sophomore.

EMU soccer player Joao Chris Downs
Check out this Daily News-Record article that focuses on Joao “Chris” Downs and his path from rural Costa Rica to NCAA Division I school Old Dominion University and finally to EMU. Read more

Defender Joao “Chris” Downs (Limon, Costa Rica/Colegio de Limon Diurno) is back to finish up his classwork under a fifth season. He scored three goals last year, but his suffocating presence in the middle of the backline earned him All-ODAC First Team and VaSID All-State First Team awards.

“Chris returns this season as a fifth year senior,” explained Coach Mast, “as he was a medical redshirt his freshman season at Old Dominion before transferring to EMU. Chris is a very good organizer of our back four defenders. He also brings good leadership to the team.”

The team also returns super-sub David Hooley (Bluffton, Oh./Bluffton), with his three goals and one assist as a junior, as well as senior midfielder Adam Moyer (Harleysville, Pa./Christopher Dock), who had two goals and an assist, and junior defender Jonathan Bush (Pottstown, Pa./Owen J. Roberts), who had a goal and an assist.

Mast says his returning core will give this year’s team strength.

Defender Jonathan Bush
Defender Jonathan Bush during the second game of the 2014 season. (photo by Wayne Gehman)

“We have good leadership in our upperclassmen,” he explained. “The work ethic of our upperclassmen is high. We also have depth in the goalkeeper position and we have strong enough numbers on our roster to create a competitive atmosphere for training and earning playing time.”

Senior keeper Andrew Yoder (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite) is a two-year starter with 188 career saves. He will give leadership to, but also be pushed by, some talented newcomers.

Freshman and transfer student add depth to team

Matt Overacker (Mount Crawford, Va./Turner Ashby) and Ryan Zerkel (Mount Jackson, Va./Stonewall Jackson) are incoming freshmen who will add depth and compete for playing time in the goalkeeper position,” said Mast. “Andrew brings in some quality experience and our young keepers bring some athleticism and competitive desire.”

While the team must replace All-ODAC forward Christian Rhine (13 goals in two season before transferring to Penn State), along with seven graduated seniors and a handful of other role players, the Royals got a boost from the local schools.

EMU Royals Men's Soccer Team
The Royals built a work ethic in the preseason which they expect will carry them during the year.

Juan Luna (Mount Jackson, Va./Stonewall Jackson) is returning to the soccer field after a stint as a place kicker at James Madison University,” Mast said, “and he has decided to transfer to EMU. Juan is a dynamic attacking player. Local freshmen players are Zach Sauder (Lyndhurst, Va./Stuarts Draft), Grayson Mast (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite), Brandon Fern (Fishersville, Va./Wilson Memorial) and Braden Herman (Waynesboro, Va./Fort Defiance). In all, we have 37 players reporting for preseason and competing for 28-32 roster spots.”

Difficult non-conference schedule sets the stage for ODAC wins

Once again, Mast scheduled a number of quality non-conference sides to get his men ready for the rigors of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.

“We have added Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg, Frostburg State, Southern Virginia and Ferrum to our non-conference venue,” said EMU’s coach. “We also have teams that we played in 2013 such as Lebanon Valley, Mary Washington and Marymount. We have chosen to play a difficult non-conference schedule to help to prepare our team for our ODAC opponents.”

Coaching changes at assistant level

There are also some changes on the sidelines, as assistant coach Ted Erickson was hired as EMU’s head women’s soccer coach. Juan Flores, who played in 17 games in his final season of eligibility last fall, and Patrick Bain, an All-ODAC and All-Region player at Roanoke, join the staff this year.

“I look forward to working with Patrick and Juan,” said Mast in late August. “Our goal is to have the players working very hard on both sides of the ball and to be professional in all aspects of our soccer program.”

assistant Ted Erickson was hired as EMU's head women's soccer coach
Mast’s assistant coach Ted Erickson was hired as EMU’s head women’s soccer coach in 2014. Here he is pictured with his team during fall preseason practice.

Learn more about EMU men’s soccer, women’s soccer, and the 2014 men’s soccer schedule on the EMU Royals athletics website.