Lions look to face ‘everyday challenges’

Expectations are high this year for Missouri Southern’s growing men’s soccer program.

“I want to challenge these guys to do the best they can do everyday and not settle for mediocrity in anything that they do,” said sixth-year men’s head soccer coach Kiley Cirillo. “Just because we are young does not mean we use it as an excuse.”

The Lions, though, are young this season, with 11 new players and only two seniors.

New to the squad this year are Sam Braverman, Ryan Whiles, Stuart Ziegler, Lawrence Lartey, Greg Edmonds, Corey Bryant, Jordan Roach, Kevin Aubuchon, Daniel Cairo, Ryan Mabry and Ryan Johnson. Those 11 – along with seniors Austin Whiles and Aaron Rippelmeyer – will be expected to have an immediate impact this season.

The Lions, who return five letter winners – Hansen, Whiles, Bayless, Clevenger and Mulholland – this year, welcome back five starters.

The Lions may be young, but Cirillo, who was a team captain and four-year starter for the Lions, doesn’t see it as an off-putting. Instead, Cirillo insists the Lions are becoming a more physical team.

“We are much more soccer athletic,” Cirillo said of this year’s squad.

Their athleticism is a must in the competitive Southwest Soccer Conference. Missouri Southern shares the conference with two teams – Midwestern State and West Texas A&M – ranked in the top 25.

Midwestern State and WTAMU shared the conference crown last season with identical 7-1 conference records. Midwestern State has been named the conference favorite in the preseason poll.

The Lions, who finished with a 4-10 record overall and 1-6-1 in the SSC, dropped their season opener on Aug. 29 to Texas A&M International, 2-1, in overtime. Cirillo’s squad has started the season 0-3, and welcome non-conference Colorado State-Pueblo to town at 7 p.m. today.