2022 team photo of Grace College men's soccer
2022 team photo of Grace College men's soccer
WINONA LAKE -  As the 2022 soccer season fast approaches, Grace men’s soccer head coach Arron Patrick sees depth and unity as his team's keys for success.

The Lancers’ mantra this season has been heavily focused on “the team” above “the individual.” The benefits from the players' buy-in to that philosophy has been seen on and off the field.

“It’s the closest group we’ve had,” Patrick said. “The returners have done a good job of connecting with the new guys, and we are seeing guys step up to lead spiritually this year. The team is gaining ownership of it, which is great.”

The trust and chemistry among the players has made tactical implementation a smooth transition. “We are the furthest along that we’ve ever been from a tactical standpoint at this point during any preseason,” Patrick added.

Grace figures to take advantage of their deep roster and play a high-energy style of soccer this season.

“We want to play beautiful football and get people excited as they watch us. We will be pressing all over the field. Our mentality is to play beautiful on the eye, but we also want to win scrappy when needed.”

Grace returns their leading goal scorer from last year in Martim Sequeira. Sequeira netted 15 goals during the 2021 campaign and has taken on a noticeable leadership role this season.

The Lancers’ backline will likely feature a pair of new faces in Diogo Lopes and Antonio Lobo. The pair have impressed with their size and strength, anchoring the Lancers’ defense.

Matteo Conci returns for his second season with Grace, after starting all 24 games in goal last season.

The Lancers will be tested early, with six of their first eight opponents having been recognized in the NAIA Top 25 Preseason Poll. Grace is scheduled to play seven teams overall in the poll, three of which are ranked No. 7 or higher.

Grace’s philosophy was similar last year. The team began the season with a 4-8 record after playing a number of top-ranked teams.

But Patrick’s squad did not panic and instead hit its peak at the most important part of the schedule. The Lancers only lost once over the next 10 matches, finishing as runner-up in the league standings and clinching a spot in the NCCAA national championships.

“We aren’t simply preparing to win the conference,” Patrick said. “We want to make the NAIA tournament and be prepared for a deep run. To do that, we need to test ourselves by playing teams at the highest level. It takes a team, not individuals, to win games deep into a season, and we have a team that has the ability to do just that.”

Grace opens the season with four straight home contests, starting with Michigan-Dearborn on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.