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Men’s soccer welcomes independent status

Instead of dwelling on being the only team on campus without a conference the Belmont men’s soccer team is embracing their independent identity heading into the 2013 season.

Senior forward/midfielder Cody Stratton hopes the team can strengthen that identity by building off each and every game throughout the season, especially winning home matches and making Rose Park “our own fortress.”

Bruin coach Earle Davidson agrees.

“Continuing to get our brand out there and style of play is an important part of what we do. The last three or four years we have really made a statement with it,” he said. “The types of players we have are really capable of pushing that to another level.”

The team’s independent status has given them a unique opportunity to face high quality and tournament opponents from across the country. This year’s schedule includes seven teams in the RPI Top 100 and four teams that made the NCAA tournament last season.

Last season offered a similar opportunity, and the Bruins were able to notch victories against high caliber teams such as NC State, climbing 14 spots in the national rankings.

“What being independent has afforded us is seeing a wider variety of styles and teams. Having done that for a year now, our veterans are a little more prepared for different types of opponents,” Davidson said.

Recently in a preseason exhibition match, the Bruins defeated nationally preseason-ranked No. 22 Xavier in 1-0 contest.

“It’s given us a world of confidence and a good start,” Stratton said. “But having the week later with the defeat to Evansville, it put our feet back on the ground and woke us up. It showed that one game is just one game.”

Stratton is one of the five seniors playing their final season in a Bruins uniform and has stepped into a leadership role for the team over the past year.

“He is playing with confidence, influencing the guys both on and off the field,” Davidson said. “He has really pushed himself into a leadership role and has earned it.”

Other leaders for the team include Sam Miller, Tyler Vieth, Nico Oslak, and Charlie Dankert.

“Nico has continued to grow as a player and expand his game. He’s got a good focus to him right now. He’s ready to go and wants to be successful,” Davidson said. “Charlie is a great leader on and off the field. He’s doing what he normally does and being very effective.”

Alongside the senior class and returning starters, 11 newcomers will be competing for play-time on the pitch, including 10 true freshmen.

“It’s a very ambitious young group. Our experienced guys have done a very good job at making it easy for them to integrate themselves in,” Davidson said.

While they are still in the goal setting process, the team hopes to earn double figures in the win column and get results against quality opponents on the schedule.

Belmont will open its regular season on Friday at Lipscomb for the continued Battle of the Boulevard tradition. The winner will take home the Red Bull Cup. Match time is set for 7 p.m. at Lipscomb Soccer Complex.

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