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November 30, 2023

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Men’s soccer begins recruiting for next season

Kevin Mensah

Early in February, head coach Eric Nichols and the Falcon men’s soccer team announced their recruiting class for the upcoming season. The team signed eight players, including one of the most highly-touted high school players in the country, Jensen Lukacsko, who was also named the Crew Academy Player of the Year in 2018. Nichols was visibly excited about the recruiting class he had just finished signing. Rightfully so, because the quality of players in the class is great. Nichols talked about the quality of those players, specifically Lukacsko.

“I think he, Jensen, could be a catalyst, for bigger and better recruiting down the road,” he said. “He’s coming here for the right reasons. He’s very driven, obviously a student athlete, wants to become a pro, wants to win championships while he’s here, and so he’s coming here very driven along with the other guys that are in that class. So if we can help him achieve those goals, then I think we got more guys like him coming in the future.”

Nichols knows that the more high quality recruits he signs will lead to more wins, which will lead to even more high quality recruits. He went in-depth on the kind of things he shows interested recruits when they come to the University. Nichols prides the team on the openness of the recruiting, showing the incoming students everything they would want to know.

“We just open the door. We just want them to see everything we’re about. We want them to see how we operate, who we are, and we think that sells itself. We could try to gloss it over and try to present something to them, but we aren’t going to be very good at that. We’re not marketers; we’re soccer coaches for one thing,” Nichols said. “The second thing is that a guy with true character is going to see through that, so we’re really proud of who we are; we’re really proud of how we operate. We’re extremely proud of our players, so we get our recruits to spend as much time with the players as possible, the recruits and the parents, because when parents meet our players, they want their kids, their sons, to be friends with our players. That’s the kind of peer group they want to be associated with.”

Nichols knows that the University is not one of the biggest in terms of its soccer program. There are schools which have more than the University, and some who have less, but Nichols talked about the specific “topper” that he shows recruits.

“There’s a few pretty typical questions and what not. We want to make sure they see Academic Services, and they want to see facilities, and they want to see training and they want to see the dorms. You know, the basics. But to be quite frank, a lot of our competitors have those same components; what separates us is the people. So, we’ll hit all those points, but we’ll have them hammered home with our people, our coaches and our people in Academic Services or our trainers, everyone here at BG. That’s one of the things that really sets BG apart is the quality of people.”

Nichols was happy about the recruits he got, even saying that he sees “some of these young guys stepping up” after asked a question about whether some of the incoming recruits might start this next season. He also said the formation the team would run next season would be a 3-5-2.

Nichols is an important person to talk to when learning about the recruiting at the University, but it is also important to talk to the students who were recruited. Jensen Lukacsko, Colin McCort and Ryan Troutman were three of the eight players recruited in the 2018 cycle. Lukacsko and McCort are midfielders, and Troutman is a goalkeeper. Like mentioned earlier, Lukacsko is one of the most talented high school players in the country. He could have gone anywhere, and he chose Bowling Green. Lukacsko talked about why he chose the University.

“I really felt a connection with the coaching staff and current players as soon as I stepped foot on campus for my first visit,” he said. “Coach Nichols and his staff have a vision for this program, and I believe we are so close to making something special happen here. I want to be a part of this vision.”

Lukacsko was named the Crew Academy Player of the Year in 2018 and was also one of the most complete high school players in the country. The honors he received gave him a lot of publicity, but this might bring with it pressure to perform up to that standard. However, he said he didn’t feel any pressure to perform at a high level.

“It hasn’t really seemed to weigh on my mind,” Lukacsko said. “I play with a lot of confidence especially because of the belief that my teammates and coaches have in me. For the staff to give me this award, it just shows how much they trust in me. So if anything, this award motivates me and reminds me how good I can be.”

Lukacsko is a midfielder, but he went in-depth into the type of midfielder he plays while on the pitch.

“I’m more of an in-between mid, the 8 position. The 8 is crucial on both sides of the ball, from switching the fields to tracking back on defense. I constantly have to be engaged in the game and can never take any plays off.”

Colin McCort is another recruit at the midfield position for the Falcons. He was named to the 2017 United Soccer Coaches Boys All-America Team, and got first team all-state and all-conference honors. He agreed with Lukacsko on how Bowling Green felt, saying it “felt like a second home” to him. McCort also talked about the kind of midfield he plays, which is a bit similar to Lukacsko’s midfield.

“I’d say my best position is in the holding mid spot being able to spread the ball wide and find the holes to play into,” McCort said. “Also being able to get into big tackles is one of my favorite things, but I can attack as well.”

Ryan Troutman is a goalkeeper from Kentucky, one of the two recruits from out-of-state. He was First Team All-State and was nominated for the USC All-America team. He talked about why he chose Bowling Green State over schools which were closer, also mirroring what Nichols, Lukacsko and McCort said about the people.

“I loved it from the moment I stepped on campus,” He said. “The environment is great and the soccer program is headed in the right direction, being led by some fantastic people and coaches. For me, the decision was really easy, this was my best option. It’s putting me in the best spot to further my career, and I’m working with the best people.”

Troutman is also excited to work with Anthony Mwembia, the current starting goalkeeper for the Falcons.

“Anto is great, and I think there is a lot of what he does that I can implement into my game,” Troutman said. “Not only about what he does in terms of shot stopping, but as well as his leadership and professional mentality and approach to everything. I look very much forward to working with him next year and potentially the year after.”

The Falcons have signed some of the better high school players in this recruiting cycle, and this could mean a rise in the profile of the soccer program at the University. There are high hopes for the upcoming season, and there are reasons for those hopes.

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