By Ryan Obradovic, staff writer

The University of Missouri-Saint Louis Tritons men’s soccer team hope to keep their winning-season tradition alive. As the 2017 season approaches, key contributions from seniors Pat Reis, junior, business; Pim Boonstra, graduate, accounting; and Captain Nick Werner, senior, business; will be vital to success. Head Coach Dan King has addressed the team and its weaknesses in order to be better than in 2016.

Last year, the Tritons touted a winning record at 10-7-1 overall and 9-5-1 in conference play, but failed to make it to the national tournament. The Tritons competed in the Great Lakes Valley Conference which is one of the toughest conferences in Division II soccer.

The Tritons needed one more win to advance to the national tournament. It would have been a first in the history of the team to achieve this. However, they failed to win their last three consecutive games which ended their season and any possibility of making the tournament. Senior forward/midfielder and leading goal scorer for the 2016 season, Reis, said, “The team needs to finish out the season on a strong note.”

“We were one game away from breaking the school record for most wins in a season, so we had things going for us. We just slipped at the very end,” Reis said. “A key aspect to winning in soccer is fitness so the team can last the full 90 minutes and close the games out strong.”

“Some teams were down our throats the whole game and we were dead tired,” said Reis. “Fitness and team chemistry are two keys to success so the flow of the game is not compromised when substitutions are made.”

Despite last year’s upset, morale remains. “We are ready for the task at hand,” King said.

The team sometimes practices in an indoor Vetta soccer league led by team captain Werner, who helps the team work on their fitness as well as team chemistry in the offseason. The team has 12 to 14 returning players with five of the players going into their senior season. The Tritons lost their senior goalkeeper and two center backs over the summer, but the midfield and offense will remain intact.

“All the returners have solid chemistry and the freshman are talking and getting to know all of us, so they’re starting to get comfortable,” Reis said. “Our chemistry is going to be good; especially when we start getting into captain’s practices where we’re together five times a week.”

In addition to fitness, King is putting a high emphasis on defense as the foundation for the team’s success. “We do a lot of defensive drills and the finishing will come later,” Reis said.

According to Reis, the Tritons toughest competition for the 2017 season will be Rockhurst University, who made it to the semifinals in the 2016 national tournament.

However since the Tritons play in the GLVC, most of the teams in that conference are not to be taken lightly. “The majority of the games we play is a battle for all 90 minutes,” Reis said.

With the 2017 soccer season quickly approaching, Reis hopes the team can hone their skills so they can win all of their home games and have a winning record on all their games away to boot.

Reis also adds that he wants the team to make the GLVC tournament, but ultimately, he aspires for the team to make it to the national tournament for the first time in UMSL’s history.