By CAYDEN SANDERS
Tiger Media Network
The Fort Hays State University men’s soccer team is ready for another season under the helm of Gerry Cleary. Every year, the goal has been to make it to the national tournament since the dawn of the program in 2012.
Last year was the exception, with the Tigers struggling halfway through the regular season after crushing the first half of the competition with a record of 7-2-3. The two losses came at the hands of challenging non-conference games.
Cleary now is looking at getting 14 new Tigers installed in his system for the 2023 season.
“We had to get some guys to fill the roster. Many guys left the program, and I am impressed with the lads,” Cleary said.
FHSU looks to rely on veteran goalkeeper Ben Dixon. The graduate student from Conroe, Texas, is ready for the challenge.
“Yeah, it has felt like forever, and being behind Kieran Brown was a great teaching moment for me,” Dixon said. “But I have been working this offseason to be the best I can be.”
Dixon has had few minutes between the posts in three seasons, as he has collected 205 minutes on the field. But he believes his time has come to lead the team.
“I knew that Kieran Brown was leaving before this season, so getting the opportunity to help this team will come with some challenges. But I can’t wait for the season to start,” the keeper said.
Blake Arndt, a Wichita native, is coming off his third season with the Tigers. Dixon is happy to have Arndt on the team in the forward position.
“Having a 15-year veteran like Blake (Arndt) on the other side of the field is amazing,” Dixon said. “He is a great guy and a great teammate to play with.”
Arndt said he is excited about returning to Hays for a final season.
“I am really happy to be back in Hays. I love this town and have special memories here, and I am just grateful to have an opportunity to finish as a Tiger this season,” said Arndt, who has scored 24 goals in three seasons for FHSU.
The expectations and standards are already set for Arndt and the Tigers.
“The reason I wanted to come back so badly is because of not accomplishing our goal as a team,” he said. “The goal was to make it to the national tournament and the finals, and we didn’t get to do that. The new guys on the team have already been told the expectations and the goals this team has not only for itself but from the fans and the nation.”
The Tigers start the season this week against two non-conference opponents in Metro State and University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Fort Hays hosts the Roadrunners at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and follows that up with a 1 p.m. match Sunday against the Mountain Lions.