Fort Lewis men’s soccer – The Durango Herald

Skyhawks bring in mix of transfers, international and American freshmen

Fort Lewis College men’s soccer head coach David Oberholtzer yells instructions to his team last season. Oberholtzer and his staff have brought in a good mix of transfers, international and American freshmen to help the Skyhawks get back to the NCAA tournament in 2024. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file photo)

Jerry McBride

Fall college sports are only about a month away from practice beginning. Before that happens, reviewing what new faces will join the Fort Lewis fall sports programs is prudent.

Five or 10 years ago, offseason roster movement in college sports was mostly made up of players graduating and freshmen coming in. Now with the transfer portal and players not having to sit out a year when they transfer, college rosters are a lot more fluid and it’s harder for fans to keep up with who is and isn’t on the roster.

Therefore, The Durango Herald will look at each FLC fall team’s offseason acquisitions from high school and the transfer portal.

The first team to start with was arguably the most successful fall sport last year and that was the Skyhawks men’s soccer team.

FLC went 12-5-4 overall and 6-1-3 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Skyhawks won 12 games for only the second time since 2011 and won the RMAC Regular Season Championship. FLC advanced to the Division II NCAA tournament and lost in the second round.

“We feel like we’re in a good place with a lot of strong players returning to what was a strong team last year,” Skyhawks men’s soccer head coach David Oberholtzer said. “That already is going to set us up to be competitive and in a good spot. We brought in a fairly large class. We’re super happy with the mix of the guys that are coming in and how they’re going to complement the rest of the group.”

The Skyhawks return seven of their top eight point getters. Despite this and over a dozen newcomers in the program, FLC didn’t lose any key contributors to the transfer portal. Oberholtzer attributed this to the strong culture within the program and the strong chemistry in the team last season.

Oberholtzer has brought in five juniors and a sophomore from the transfer portal. He said he values ​​the maturity of these players since they have a few years playing college soccer. Oberholtzer knows there are a lot of good college soccer players around the country and the Skyhawks program, FLC and the town of Durango are all attractive options for transfers.

Three of the incoming transfers are from Utah State Eastern, a junior college in Price, Utah. Junior defenders Casey Stracher, Austin Tesch and junior midfielder Aiden McMullin played with senior midfielder Thomas Kirkham at Utah State Eastern before Kirkham joined the Skyhawks for the 2023 season.

“That speaks a lot about the culture of our program, Fort Lewis and the town of Durango in general when we have players that are in our program that are having a great experience and they can pass those positive messages on to friends of theirs that play at a good level,” Oberholtzer said.

For this year’s recruiting class, Oberholtzer said the coaching staff knew they needed to continue to add depth at all positions but especially at center midfield with midfielder Loic Jean-Baptiste’s graduation and at right back with Cieran Feeney’s graduation.

Oberholtzer wanted to bring in freshmen and transfers that would push the returners and keep them on their toes. His goal for his roster is to have 28 guys who compete and could all play if needed.

International players have been competing on Dirks Field for the Skyhawks for years and there are quite a few international newcomers this year.

Oberholtzer thinks international players are drawn to the opportunity to get a good education and to continue to play at a high level at a diverse campus that FLC provides.

The Skyhawks head coach said he’s intrigued by all the international players they’re bringing in and it’s hard to tell what guys will adjust to the Division II college level.

But Oberholtzer did mention he is especially excited about incoming international freshmen Theo Bergman and Julián Rojas. Bergman is from Uddevalla, Sweden, and has impressive measurements at 6-foot-3-inches and 181 pounds. Oberholtzer said he will be a noticeable attacking player right away with his size, speed and athleticism, which reminded the coaching staff of reigning RMAC Player of the Year and FLC sophomore Anton Hjalmarsson.

Rojas is from San José, Costa Rica, and is only 5-6 and 146 pounds. Oberholtzer said fans shouldn’t look too much into his measurements as he’s fantastic on the ball with great intelligence, passing skills and a toughness that won’t let him get pushed around.

The Skyhawks coaching staff is also bringing in multiple freshmen from the United States. Freshman goalkeeper Tate Marshall was born in Portland, Oregon but now comes from Denver. Freshman Jacob Ramos is from Fort Collins. Oberholtzer said both players played for Real Colorado, located outside of Denver, which is a club Oberholtzer and the Skyhawks program have a great relationship with and many Skyhawks have come through there.

Two other noteworthy freshmen are defenders Chase Larson and Billy Plett. Larson is from Washington which is part of the country with a lot of talent, according to Oberholtzer. Plett comes from Winnipeg, Canada, but went to high school in England and has also spent time in Costa Rica. Oberholtzer thinks Plett’s travels have helped with his maturity and soccer experience.

Oberholtzer credited assistant coach Dillon Nino with putting in a lot of work to get this quality recruiting class to FLC.

The official preseason start date for the Skyhawks is Aug. 18 and Oberholtzer expects some players to be in town before that to work with the strength and conditioning staff and get acclimated to the altitude.

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