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PREVIEW: Tars Face Lees-McRae, No. 1 Wingate Opening Weekend

PREVIEW: Tars Face Lees-McRae, No. 1 Wingate Opening Weekend

SCHEDULE:
Thursday, August 31 vs. Lees-McRae | 4:00 p.m. | Wingate, N.C.
Saturday, September 2 at Wingate | 7:00 p.m. | Wingate, N.C.

COVERAGE:
LMC – Watch | Live Stats
WU – Watch | Live Stats 

SET UP:
The Tars begin the 2017 campaign with a trip to North Carolina.  Rollins is looking to return to the postseason after narrowly missing the playoffs in 2016.  The Tars, who were picked sixth in the Sunshine State Conference Preseason Poll, will open the season on Thursday against Lees McRae.  The Bobcats are coming off a 5-14 season during which they reached the Conference Carolinas Semifinals.  Rollins will then turn around and have to deal with top-ranked, and defending National Champions, Wingate, on Saturday.  The Bulldogs hoisted the trophy in 2016 following a 19-0-1 season. 

WHO TO WATCH:
Rollins: The 2017 squad is captained by Ben Grant and Johnny Nartowicz.  The midfield duo appeared in every contest for the Tars in 2016.  Matt Volk will look to build on a breakout junior year, and control the attacking third for Rollins.  The senior from St. Augustine led the Tars with nine goals, and was named Third Team Academic All-American as a junior.  Drew Trautmann will protect the Rollins goal, after being named a CoSIDA Academic All-District performer last season.  In front of him is an experienced back line, which includes senior Fritz Engel, and graduate student James Winchester

Lees McRae: The Bobcats have been selected seventh out of ten teams in the preseason Conference Carolinas Poll.  Among the key returners for Lees McRae are Tom Deeley, James Morgan, and Pol Vassart.  Deeley, a native of Oxford, England, scored 12 goals and added eight assists in 2016, and enters his senior year on the back of two consecutive All-Conference selections.  Morgan is also a two-time All-Conference performer on defense for the Bobcats.  Vassart enters his junior season, looking to lead Lees McRae up front, scoring seven goals, and tallying two assists in 2016. 

Wingate: Despite losing 2016 NSCAA National Player of the Year Alex Nelson, the Bulldogs have reloaded, and still occupy the top spot in the Division II Preseason Polls.  Jon Ander highlights those returning for the title defense.  The senior was named a 2015 All-American, and the Most Outstanding Offensive Player at last year's Final Four.  Also returning for the Bulldogs on offence is All-South Atlantic Conference, and All-Region honoree Elma N'For.  In the defensive end of the pitch Wingate will turn to returning All-American Damian Gaona, while two-time All-American Pablo Jara will remain in net for the Bulldogs.  Wingate will begin their title defense with a game against Saint Leo on Thursday, before hosting the Tars on Saturday. 

NOTES:

  • Tars' head coach Keith Buckley is entering his 27th year at the helm of the Rollins soccer program, and currently sits with a record of 306-148-29.
  • This will be the first ever match-up between Rollins and Lees-McRae
  • Wingate defeated the Tars 3-0 to open the the 2016 campaign, as the Tars now 2-1 all-time against the Bulldogs.

NEXT:
Rollins will return to the friendly confines of Barker Family Stadium for a pair of South Region contests.  The Tars will host West Florida, for their home opener, on Friday, September 8, at 7 p.m.  Rollins will then play again on Sunday, September 10, as they welcome Spring Hill College, at 1 p.m. 

For the latest news, updates, and information on the Rollins men's soccer team, fans can visit RollinsSports.com.  Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest #TARnation news by following Rollins Sports on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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