Solid defense, athleticism Buffs team to be reckoned with

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   On the heels of a fine season, the Milligan College soccer program is looking to reload instead of rebuilding, as the Buffs will continue to aim high this season.
   With returning stars Steven Townley and Brian Okumu, the Buffaloes will field a team that shows good balance and an overall improvement in athletic ability compared to last season's squad.
   "We don't want to fix anything that isn't broken," said Milligan skipper Marty Shirley. "We're deeper and more athletic, and we look to have a more team-oriented approach this year."
   Without the big scoring threat early on in the upcoming season, the Buffaloes will be looking for a new offensive weapon to emerge. Despite the search for new offensive firepower, the Buffs can still rely on solid defense by Townley and Okumu.
   "I expect them to pick up right where they left of last season," said Shirley. "They are good players and we expect big things from them."
   The offensive side of the ball will be looking for talent as graduation took away most of the punch in the midfield and striker positions.
   One individual that will be expected to step up this year is sophomore striker Jason Hotchkin. Hotchkin received some solid experience during summer league play in the PDL, receiving player of the week accolades during the campaign.
   Hotchkin will be called upon to fill some of the void caused by the graduation of striker Daylan Telles. Telles and his 2001 season stand as the benchmark for the Buffalo program and his play will be missed this year,
   "Those will be tough shoes to fill, and we hope that others will step up to do the job," Shirley said.
   The absence of the star player has caused this year's Milligan club to change up their strategy just a bit to spread the wealth a little further.
   "We will be more team oriented," Shirley said. "Last season we fed it in to Telles this year will spread the ball around and look to do some new things on offense."
   The goalkeeping duties will fall to junior Daniel Pavlin, with a contribution from freshman Trevor Techeira.
   The big story, as it is with most collegiate soccer programs, is the international flavor that the Buffs will field this season. Of the 28 players on the roster this year, six of the athletes have come to Milligan from outside the U.S.
   This is one mark of a good program due to the world wide emphasis on soccer and its emergence in the United States.
   The remainder of the club consists of young men from across the nation, with 12 states represented along with three local athletes from Johnson City.
   With a diverse squad, and a balance of talent across the board, the Buffs are hoping to recapture the magic that made last season a solid one.
   With the defensive side of the ball secure, look for the Buffs to struggle somewhat early, while they look to find their legs offensively.
   By midseason, Milligan may once again establish themselves as a strong contender for the AAC title.