The Cincinnati Bearcats’ men’s soccer team had one of their strongest seasons in recent memory in 2016, posting a 9-7-1 record overall and a 3-4 record in AAC play. Despite a roster that consisted largely of underclassmen, the Bearcats improved on their 2015 mark of 7-9-3 and look to make further progress in 2017. The Bearcats’ fifth place finish in the AAC left them just short of qualifying for the four-team conference tournament, which was won by perennial powerhouse Tulsa.
Much of the Bearcats’ success in 2016 must be credited to the steady leadership of their head coach, Hylton Dayes, who has guided UC’s men’s soccer program for 16 seasons. The 2016 Bearcats roster was short six seniors from the 2015 club. Dayes and his assistants, Justin Ferguson, Taylor Thames and recent UC soccer alumni Mike Brizzi, oversaw the transformation of UC’s young 2016 roster into a veteran club capable of competing with anyone in the AAC.
Junior goaltender Pedro Diaz, a native of Mason, Ohio, played a major role in ensuring the Bearcats’ success this season. His 1.15 goals against average and .789 save percentage were among the best in the conference. The cluster of underclassmen who played in front of Diaz this season also earned their stripes. Four Bearcats, all underclassmen, earned American Athletic Conference honors. Junior midfielder Adam Wilson was named the AAC’s Midfielder of the Year while earning a spot on the All-Conference First Team. Freshman defender Patrick Nielsen was named second team all-conference. He was also named to the AAC All-Rookie team along with fellow freshman midfielders David Sanz and Ryan Melink.
Look for the now veteran Bearcats’ men’s soccer team to win big in 2017. Be sure to support them down at Gettler Stadium. With all of this talent returning, I predict that UC men’s soccer earns an NCAA Tournament bid next season, their first since 2006.