MLC men’s soccer optimistic despite lowered expectations

NEW ULM – The Martin Luther College men’s soccer team finished just 3-15 in 2012, but it was much better than its record showed.

The Knights lost seven games by one goal including a 2-1 loss against Upper Midwest Athletic Conference powerhouse St. Scholastica.

MLC returns a number of key players in 2013, and it is hoping to come out on top in those one-goal games this year and propel itself into the UMAC postseason tournament.

“We have to come out this year and prove to the conference that we are going to be contenders,” said senior captain Ryan Lemke. “We are always going to try and make the UMAC postseason tournament, and with the group of guys we have I don’t think that would be out of the question for us.”

Junior midfielder Steve Roekle is the lone returning All-UMAC performer for the Knights. Roekle earned honorable mention All-UMAC after scoring five goals and assisting on two.

“[Roekle] is going to direct a lot of traffic,” said head coach Paul Koelpin. “He is a very good ball handler and he manages the ball well.”

Lemke will lead the forwards on offense. He is coming off a season with five goals and four assists.

“Ryan has played a lot of soccer in a Knight’s uniform, and I am looking for him to have a great senior season and be a big scoring threat for us,” Koelpin said.

The Knights’ defense has a strong contingent returning this year. Lemke’s co-captain Dave Roekle will have senior Chris Krug and sophomore Micah Koelpin alongside him to shut down opposing offenses.

Senior goalkeeper Eric Hahn also returns with a year of experience under his belt. Hahn finished in the top half of the conference in most statistical categories last year.

“We have a great group of veteran players stretched out all the way across the field and we are going to benefit from that,” Koelpin said.

MLC also has a strong class of freshman players who could contribute right away.

Freshmen Aaron Markgraf and Nate Grauman could add a helpful scoring punch to the Knights’ lineup.

“I am very pleased by a number of our freshmen players,” Koelpin said. “We have a few freshmen who are going to be impact players and are ready to come in and play right now.”

The Knights were picked to finish seventh out of eight teams in the UMAC preseason poll, but they are going to use the poll as motivation to work harder and prove the poll wrong by finishing in the top four and making the UMAC tournament.

“It’s certainly fine by me if they overlook MLC,” Lemke said. “We will just have to come out and show them what we have been working towards during the offseason.”

MLC kicks off its season Friday at Buena Vista.

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