May 9, 2014

The Oakland men's soccer team put together one of the toughest spring schedules in the country, taking on 2013 national champion Notre Dame, perennial top-25 teams Michigan State, Xavier and Northwestern, and one of the top Division II programs in the country in Saginaw Valley. The Golden Grizzlies finished their spring season with four ties and one loss to the Fighting Irish.

"Overall our spring season was a very productive one in a number of different areas that we felt were critical to our team success come Fall 2014," said head coach Eric Pogue. "One main area we felt we really needed to address was adding individual size, strength and athleticism. After analyzing the Fall, we felt we could play soccer with any team in the country, but where we struggled was in the games that we got outmatched physically like Oregon State, Michigan State and Milwaukee. Our strength & conditioning staff, led by Todd Wohlfeil and Jake Siebert, devised an excellent program and our men really put in the work in the weight room 4-5 per week to see some significant improvement from January to April that they will continue throughout the summer and into the Fall. Our coaching staff put together a spring schedule that would test us physically against some of top teams in the nation through the Midwest and we were pleased with our improvements physically while maintaining a great attacking brand of soccer."

Joey Tinnion continued his scoring prowess, as he finished with two goals while Gerald Ben, the newest OU player, was a huge attacking threat with one assist. Matt Dudley also played outstanding in the midfield with a goal against Notre Dame.

"The focus of the spring was not really our attack, but it was great to see Joey Tinnion continuing his hot streak scoring," added Pogue. "The addition of Gerald Ben to our attack will be a huge plus to our attack this Fall. Although Gerald did not score this spring, he created a number of scoring opportunities and is a real threat getting in behind defenses with his pace, athleticism and strength. The threat of the pace of Gerald will open up the center of midfield for guys like Shawn Claud Lawson, Matt Dudley, Gavin Hoy and Matt Rickard to be even more effective owning possession and creating opportunities for us."

The Golden Grizzlies revamped their defense and backline after the loss of seniors Nick Kristock, Lucas Deiner, and Sean Magee, while replacing goalkeepers Sean Lewis and Scott Messer, who also graduated. Raphael Reynolds and Matt DeLang shifted to center back and made excellent transitions. Eliott Tarney was also very good in goal.

"Rebuilding our backline was a major focus this winter and spring, as we lost a lot of key seniors that have played a lot of minutes for us over the last 4 years," said coach Pogue. "Matt DeLang and Raphael Reynolds made some great strides over the winter after making the shift to center back and Cody Archibald, John DeLeon, and Jacob VanderLaan all helped us solidify our backline and make this an area of strength for us heading into the Fall. In goal, Eliott Tarney had a very good spring for us and made a number of key saves for us. We are asking a lot from Eliott to come in and replace Sean Lewis and Scott Messer, but he has proved up to the challenge this spring and will use a good summer of playing high level soccer with the Michigan Bucks and Detroit City FC to come in firing on all cylinders for us."

Oakland started with back-to-back ties against Michigan State, 1-1, and Saginaw Valley, 2-2. Tinnion score the lone OU goal versus the Spartans and led for a majority of the contest until MSU netted a late goal. Against the Cardinals the following day, the Golden Grizzlies trailed 2-0 at half, but came back for the draw, as Tinnion and Matt Wilson scored.

OU would go head-to-head with the reigning NCAA national champions Notre Dame tying the game early in the second half on a Dudley header from a cross by Ben. Unfortunately, the Golden Grizzlies would score an own goal in the final minute to fall 2-1. Oakland would play immediately following the Notre Dame game against Xavier and lead 1-0 on a Matt Rickard goal, but the Musketeers would tie the game on a set piece late in the game to finish with the 1-1 draw. The final spring game was a scoreless tie with Northwestern, as both teams were evenly matched with Tarney playing an excellent game in goal.

The Golden Grizzlies are looking to improve on a 2013 season that saw them finish third in their inaugural season in the Horizon League with a 4-2-1 mark and 7-7-5 overall. OU made it to its seventh consecutive semifinal appearance in the league tournament after defeating Valparaiso 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Tournament at the OU Soccer Field.




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