Dayton men’s soccer coach confident after strong finish in 2016

Dayton’s Dillon Nino dribbles during a match against Belmont on Sept. 4, 2016, at Baujan Field in Dayton. Photo courtesy of University of Dayton
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Dayton’s Dillon Nino dribbles during a match against Belmont on Sept. 4, 2016, at Baujan Field in Dayton. Photo courtesy of University of Dayton

Currier’s team was 8-9-3 last season

Coach Dennis Currier described the 2016 season as roller coaster. His Dayton Flyers men’s soccer team finished 8-9-3 and never won more than two games in a row.

“Last year we had a lot of new guys,” Currier said. “We lost a lot of our seniors who had such a good run in 2015.”

Currier’s team built momentum for 2017 by beating Virginia Commonwealth in the regular-season finale to clinch the last spot in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Then they upset top-seeded Saint Louis in the first round before losing 1-0 in the semifinals to VCU.

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Seven players who started the final game last season are on the roster this season. Dayton opens the season at 6 p.m. Friday against East Tennessee State at Baujan Field.

“I think what we’ll see from this team is another year of experience under their belt,” Currier said. “They kind of know the trials and tribulations you go through for a season, so I think the preparation is going to be at a higher level.”

Dayton will have to replace defender Lalas Abubakar, who was the fifth selection in the first round of the Major League Soccer Draft. He was named to the MLS Team of the Week earlier this month after making his fourth appearance of the season for the Columbus Crew.

“Lalas was a very special player,” Currier said. “What we worked on a little differently is trying to get a better balance in the back four. It’s really difficult to replace an MLS-level player with another one who would be new. This year we’ve got more depth in the back. That’s going to help. We’ll be able to rotate some players in there. We kind of looked at the different attributes of the center backs and tried to pair them up. Lalas will be a massive loss for us, not just as a player, but he was just a real big-time competitor. Unfortunately, you can’t replace that with one recruit.”

Dayton also lost its top goal scorer, Kennedy Nwabia, who transferred to the University of Virginia. He scored six goals as a sophomore. The team’s three other goal leaders return: sophomore forward Rok Taneski (4), redshirt junior midfielder Nick Hagenkord (4) and senior midfielder Alvaro Navarro (3).

One of Dayton's top scorers in 2015, when the Flyers finished 13-5-5, is also back. Forward/midfielder James Haupt had seven goals and seven assists as a junior. He missed last season with a back injury. He's now a graduate student.

“He was one of the top players in the A-10 and made a significant impact in 2015 when we made our big run,” Currier said. “He was out with back surgery, and he’s come back healthy. Right now we’re about as healthy as you can be with a squad of 30.”

This is Currier’s 13th season. Last year was just the fourth losing season in his tenure. He has never experienced two losing seasons in a row, and that includes eight seasons at Harris-Stowe and four seasons at Incarnate Word.

One of the goals this season is to make the semifinals of the A-10 tournament in November. Dayton will host those games and the championship game whether it’s playing in them or not.

Currier liked what he saw out of his team in the spring and hopes it carries over to the fall.

“I think this spring we saw that you’ve got to be prepared and ready to go every game and it’s not just going to happen because you’re more talented,” Currier said. “It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. I think this year we’ve learned from those experiences and we want to try to get a good start out of the gate. We open up with a very good opponent. There’s renewed energy.”

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