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Tiger men play to draw in exhibition

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University men's soccer coach Brett Parker understands he won't be able to fill the shoes of last year's leading scorer, Ricardo Yeverino, with one pair of feet. Instead, he plans on using multiple bodies to fill the offensive void left by the graduation of the first-team All-MIAA forward.

"It will have to look a lot more like two years ago, where we got goals from a lot of different areas," said Parker, referring to the 2012 season in which Yeverino redshirted. "It wasn't just one guy we were trying to run our offense through. We will have to spread it around a little bit."

Yeverino accounted for 11 of the team's 35 goals last season, and was second with six assists. The Tigers' third-leading points man, Daniel Peralta (five goals, four assists), also graduated, but Parker believes there is plenty of places to look in order to replace the offensive production.

Although, if he was looking for it this weekend, he didn't find it. The Tigers opened their 2014 season with an exhibition match against Dodge City Community College on Sunday at the FHSU Soccer Stadium, playing to a scoreless draw.

FHSU decisively outshot Dodge City despite having some key players, including returning midfielder Tanner Brock, not in uniform. However, the Tigers were forced to settle for a tie in their first competition, post-Yeverino.

"It was what you'd expect from the fourth day of our preseason. A little disjointed in the attacking third, but we created a lot of chances," Parker said. "We weren't very clinical there, finishing. But there are some positives. Clean sheet, pretty solid defensively. A big focus on training moving forward will be on the attacking side."

FHSU finished the 2013 season with a 12-5-3 record, the 12 wins being an all-time best for the fourth-year program. In their two years of eligibility, the Tigers have made it into the NCAA tournament, only to lose in the first round both times, including a 1-0 loss to conference-rival Lindenwood last season.

Despite the losses of Yeverino and Peralta, the Tigers enter the season ranked No. 23 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division II preseason rankings. Lindenwood, which is the defending MIAA champion, enters the season No. 7.

"It's a good feeling. I don't feel much pressure coming from it because we are still a new program," said Brock about the team's Top-25 ranking. "We are pretty deep, so I think it will be pretty easy to replace Yeverino and Peralta. So I think we will still have a really successful season. We will just have to spread the stats out throughout the team instead of have individuals."

Among the other key returners for FHSU are midfielders Diego Cabral, Michael Cole and David Lucio, defenders Eric Hymer, Carlos Linares and Drew Wilson, and goalkeeper Jason Babyak, the 2013 MIAA Freshman of the Year.

"It's nice when you bring a lot of guys back. It's easily the deepest we've been in every position on the field," Parker said. "We want to progress and go forward. It all starts with the MIAA. A big goal is to win the regular season and the conference tournament. That's where we need to start because we haven't done that yet. Then beyond that, obviously we want to get into the NCAA tournament again and see where we can go from there."

The Tigers will host a second exhibition match on Thursday against Midland University (Neb.), a 7 p.m. contest at the FHSU Soccer Stadium. A third and final exhibition will be played on Aug. 26 at Kansas Wesleyan, with the regular-season opener occurring on Sept. 5 against Colorado State University-Pueblo at 7:30 p.m., part of the Days Inn Soccer Classic in Hays.