FRANKLIN, Ind. – Following a season that saw the program implement a dozen newcomers to the roster, the Franklin men's soccer team heads into the 2019 campaign with a squad that features plenty of familiarity and experience as they aim to move up the HCAC standings.
The Grizzlies return a total of 20 players from their 2018 squad under third-year head coach Cody Graman. With so many familiar faces in camp ready to compete, the veteran club has put their coach as ease in camp because everyone knows what to expect during training sessions.
"Last year we had a roster with a lot of freshman and we spent a lot of time focusing on culture and helping them all adjust to the college game," Graman said. "We were able to build on that for this year. I have seen a big difference in the attitude of our preseason work from last year to this year. The guys came in focused and ready to compete this year."
On the back end, the Grizzlies welcome back a pair of sophomore goalkeepers and three members of their starting back line. Jake Hendricks emerged as the starter for Franklin a year ago, making 15 appearances and earning a pair of clean sheets. He'll be pushed once again by classmate Elliott Clark, who played well when called up as a true freshman.
The back line features the return of both outside backs in Landon Tak and Weston DeShon along with starting center back Matthew Crandley. With senior Cody Coppess, junior Trevor Bray and sophomore Jimmy Lawson anchoring the holding midfield, the Grizzlies have an experienced and talented core they can lean on to keep the ball out of their net.
"Jake is a very good goalie and his growth over the past year can be largely contributed to Elliott pushing Jake every day in training," Graman noted. "Having either Jake or Elliott in goal allows for our defense to play with a bit more calmness about themselves knowing that someone of that caliber is behind them. "
With the defense largely intact, the offense will look for a bit more magic on the attack. Leading scorer and 2018 Second Team All-HCAC selection Jordan Thomas returns as the team's top scoring option and is joined by program mainstays Mason May, Andrew Vidal, Jacob Thompson, Roberto Lara and Angel Tapia in the attacking zone.
With an increased focus on finishing a key so far in camp, the Grizzlies are banking on the extra work leading to a few more tallies on the scoreboard this fall.
"Our biggest hurdle is going to be finishing off the opportunities we create," Graman continued. "Last year we outshot many of our opponents but came out on the wrong side of the score line. We need to be more clinical in front of goal and finishes our chances early."
The Grizzlies do hold a big advantage courtesy of their schedule, opening the year with five straight matches on the turf at Faught Stadium to open the year and 11 total home games this fall. That extra time spent on their home field is vital, and come conference play the Grizzlies expect to be working like a well-oiled machine.
"It is always nice to play in front of our home crowd and sleep in our own beds," Graman concluded. "I think we have one of the best facilities in the state, and we do a good job drawing out crowds to our games for a great atmosphere. Our goal is to get all the kinks ironed out along with come away with some wins, so we are rolling by the time conference play hits."
Franklin kicks off the 2019 season on Friday, Aug. 30, when they host Wabash College at approximately 7:30 p.m.