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DWU men off to fast start on the soccer field

Coming into the 2013 men’s soccer campaign, not many people expected Dakota Wesleyan University to put up a fight.

The Tigers were tabbed to finish ninth in the conference preseason polls, but a month into the season, DWU is 4-2-1 overall and 1-0 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.

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“It is always good to win games,” DWU men’s soccer coach Jeremy Tosaya said. “We knew we had the talent, but the nice thing about the season so far is how well we are coming together as a team.

“We have had quite a few shutouts. The defensive system has really helped us, and when you can keep the other team off the board, you can be successful.”

Second-year starting goalkeeper Alex Nelson has led the way for Wesleyan in the early going. Nelson has recorded four clean sheets — meaning he hasn’t allowed a goal in a game — so far this season and has 38 saves. Nelson’s 38 saves ranks 26th in the NAIA’s Division I.

With his strong start have come early accolades. The sophomore from Sioux Falls has been named the GPAC’s defensive player of the week once this season.

Joining Nelson on the DWU backline is a quartet of veteran players. Tosaya said junior left back Tyler Grilley, senior center back Trent Robbins, junior center back Ryan West and senior right back Eric Moller — all South Dakota natives — have all been pivotal to how well the Tigers have done defensively.

“Alex has been good and very solid,” Tosaya said. “He has been very safe and he helps organize the backline. We have a really good defensive group back there with him. We play some teams that are loaded with international talent, but this whole back line defense is from the state and we like that.”

Wesleyan has also received help from newcomers Chaz Foss and Mike Haight. The Tigers have scored 13 goals this season and Foss and Haight have netted seven of those. Foss, a junior transfer from the University of Sioux Falls, has taken 21 shots this season and scored four times.

One of Foss’s four goals came in DWU’s GPAC opener against Nebraska Wesleyan. The goal was the Tigers’ only score of the game as they beat NWU 1-0.

Haight, a sophomore transfer from Gustavus Aldophus College, has netted three goals for the Tigers.

“Both of them are very fast and have great athletic ability,” Tosaya said. “Our midfielders are also doing a good job at getting them the ball in position where they can score.”

Wesleyan looks to continue its winning ways at 7 p.m. today against Grace University at the Mitchell Pepsi Soccer Complex.