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Tigers striving to be top 4 in conference

Sixty-six percent of the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s soccer team is made up of freshmen and sophomores.

But head coach Jeremy Tosaya said his team is talented and very deep despite its youth.

Days before his team kicks off its season Saturday, the fifth-year head coach said he is not focused on wins and losses. Instead, he is more concerned with the improvement of his players in the system.

“We are talented, so it is just going to be a matter of the guys learning how to play together and the younger guys adjusting to how to play at the college level,” said Tosaya, whose team opens the regular season against Viterbo University at 2 p.m. Saturday in La Crosse, Wis. “We are not as focused on the results as we are going to be focused on the the improvement of the team. Our hope is to play the best we can.”

Last season, the Tigers finished in ninth place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, going 3-5-2 in conference play and 6-11-2 overall. Wesleyan just missed reaching the conference postseason tournament, which features the top eight teams. Hastings finished 9-1 last season in conference play, earning the regular-season crown.

Hastings was picked to finish atop the GPAC this year in the preseason poll released on Aug 13. Dakota Wesleyan was picked to finish ninth again, but Tosaya and his team have much higher expectations.

“Our goal every year is to be top four,” Tosaya said. “It would be a great achievement if we make the top four because that means we can host at least one playoff game. Hopefully, come playoff time the guys will step up and get the results we need.”

If the Tigers are to make the playoffs, they will have to fill the void left by second-team all-GPAC performer Hugo Gonzalez. The forward led Wesleyan last year in points, assists and goals scored. Gonzalez had 21 points, five assists and eight goals. The only other player on last year’s roster to score double-digit points was Chaz Foss, who had 11.

“Losing Hugo is a big loss,” Tosaya said.

Responsible for picking up where Gonzalez left off are seniors Carlos Mora and Trent Robbins and sophomore Alex Nelson.

Mora is a center defensive midfielder, who started in 18 games and had one assist while at DWU. Robbins, a center back scored three goals, had one assist and recorded seven points, and Nelson, who is Wesleyan’s goalkeeper, started 10 of the 12 games he played last year and will be in the net full-time this season.

The Tigers are also looking for a big boosts from their incoming recruiting class, which features Ryan West, Mikey Haight and Kenny Mattson. West is a transfer from the University of Sioux Falls, who will play center back, Haight is a transfer forward from Gustavus Adolphus College and Mattson is a freshman forward from Brandon Valley.

“I think we are a lot more athletic than we were last year,” Tosaya said. “We have options, but we will stay fairly consistent with the lineup based on the team that we are playing. The core of the team will stay the same, but the nice thing about having depth is that injuries won’t hold us hostage like they have in the past.”