The Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer team — along with the other two remaining Lone Star Conference members — will play as independents this season.
With Incarnate Word moving up to the Division I Southland Conference after last season, the LSC was left with just three members — not enough to compete for an actual championship. UIW won the league last season, while West Texas A&M and Midwestern State also made strong showings.
The Hounds (10-7-1, 1-4-1 LSC in 2012) open the new season on Thursday with a 5 p.m. match at Wayland Baptist.
Sixth-year coach Harold Munoz said the Hounds have some holes to fill and will be relatively young, but have potential.
“I think we’ll have a decent team,” Munoz said. “If injuries don’t (overwhelm us), we can upset a couple of the big boys.”
ENMU will have 15 freshmen on the roster, including some who will have to contribute, Munoz said. Two of them, Severin Niessen and James Gutierrez, are competing at goalkeeper, with Niessen, who is from Germany, the likely starter.
The defensive end of the field is where the main question marks are early, Munoz said.
Top returnees from last year include senior forward Eishu Kanemitsu of Japan and sophomore forward Carlos Viveros, who each had six goals and three assists last season, and senior midfielder Julian Roberts.
Senior wing Kal Herbert, who missed last season with an injury, also returns. Others back are senior defender Christ Marrone, who played midfield last year, and junior defender Brent Schleyer.
“We have a lot of new faces on the team, but I’m cautiously optimistic,” Munoz said.
September: 5 — at Wayland Baptist, 5 p.m.; 7 — Fort Hays State, 1 p.m.; 10 — University of the Southwest, 4:30 p.m.; 13 — at Colo.-Colorado Springs, 5 p.m.; 15 — at Colorado State-Pueblo, 1 p.m.; 19 — Texas A&M International, 4 p.m.; 21 — Dallas Baptist, 1 p.m.; 25 — at Texas-Permian Basin, 3 p.m.; 27 — at Oklahoma Christian, 6 p.m.; 30 — at University of the Southwest, 3 p.m.
October: 3 — Lubbock Christian, 1 p.m.; 7 — Midwestern State, 3 p.m.; 11 — at Fort Hays State, 4 p.m.; 14 — Southern Nazarene, 3 p.m.; 18 — at West Texas A&M, 6 p.m.; 24 — West Texas A&M, 3 p.m.
November: 1 — at Midwestern State, 6 p.m.; 7 — at Lubbock Christian, 2 p.m.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference matches. Coach: Harold Munoz (6th year).