Buffs team to beat in conference

star staff

  Coming off a respectable season, the Milligan men's soccer team has top-notch expectations for 2004.
  The Buffaloes will be heading into the new season with some prospects awaiting their chance to fill the gaps.
  Losing just four players from last year, Milligan has recruited 18 new faces to replace those spots.
  "We've done a good job in filling the gaps we were efficient in, and we've added depth too many other spots," said Milligan coach Marty Shirley. "The most important thing is to get those guys some playing time so they can become seasoned, but we mostly have a veteran squad going into this season."
  Out of the four players lost, just one of them started on last year's team, so the endorsement the Buffs received to win their conference is no surprise.
  "We are presently ranked at No. 1 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, and there's not much that goes into that type of voting except for who you have returning and what our results were from the year before," said Shirley.
  The Buffaloes will take the field today, where they'll face Tusculum away at 6 P.M.
  Milligan has made it to the playoffs the last three seasons under Shirley, but the conference championship has eluded them until possibly this year?
  "The first year we made it to the conference finals, and the rest of the time we have just managed to win one game but didn't get any further than that," said Shirley. "Hopefully these guys have enough taste of the post-season and can carry that and do a little more with it."
  Several teams will be in contention for the title, but their chances to come away with first is as good as anybody's.
  "I think it's wide-open right now, and I think there are several teams who are probably a lot better than what they are showing," said Shirley. "Our goal is to win the conference and get to the regional tournament."
  Coming up on Sept. 3-4, the Milligan Buffalo Classic will be held, as several high ranking teams will travel to compete in this year's Labor Day Weekend event.
  "We have the number one team of NAIA coming in, which is Rio Grande University of Ohio, and Mid-Continent College, which is tenth in the nation." said Shirley. "We also have Houghton from New York, which is 29th in the nation.
  "When you get a chance to play the number one team in the nation, that could be a turning point in our season and where we gain respect."
  Some of the key returning starters are Ali Mohammed, who was the conference player of the year last season, along with two top goalies of Juan Wyoki and Jordan Fody from Canada.
  Steven Towley will be playing striker and David Lilly will be the mid-center fielder with Mohammed for the Buffaloes.
  "Our midfield play and strikers will be our strongest positions. I don't think we'll have a problem scoring goals, but we're working really hard this off season to keep them out," said Shirley. "Offense wins games, but defense wins championships."
  Milligan received the NAIA Character Initiative Award last season, which it holds in esteem and looks to be a part of once again.
  "We've got a great group of guys and are looking to repeat at that, because when it all comes down to it, it's just a game," said Shirley. "We can learn a lot from the game, and it's also good to witness and share Christ.
  "With us being Milligan College and a Christian Liberal Arts college, this is a great platform to reach out to other teams and the people who see us."