With returners and newcomers stepping up to fill key roster spots, Brendon McGonigle has high expectations his team’s 2017 campaign.

McGonigle, Ottawa University men’s soccer head coach, enters his third season at the helm of the program. The Braves were 6-11-2 (5-5-1 KCAC) in 2016, falling in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal to Friends University 3-0.

Despite graduating three of four of their all-conference selections from last year (Edward Maya, goalkeeper; Eric Maldonado, defender; and Sheldon Hayes, defender), the Braves are optimistic for the upcoming season, McGonigle said in a news release.

“We are expecting a lot from this year’s team,” he said. “We believe we have a fantastic group of players, and have addressed all of our major needs through both building an excellent 2017 recruiting class and developing the returning players throughout the spring.”

Ottawa scored just 15 goals in 2016, an area McGonigle said the team will have to improve on to win key games, according to the release.

“Without a doubt, our problem in 2016 was scoring goals and that is ultimately what prevented us from producing the one or two big wins that we really needed at the end of the season,” McGonigle said. “Having said that, we learned to play in different systems last year and became a much more dynamic team that was very fun to watch at times. We oftentimes created more opportunities than our opponents in games that we lost by very narrow margins. Our success this year will depend on how much ownership the entire team takes over taking this program to the next level. We couldn’t be more excited for this upcoming season.”

Ross Anderson, senior midfielder, returns as the Braves’ points leader from last year. A second team All-KCAC selection, Anderson will be a key component on a roster that boasts nine seniors.

Alongside Anderson at the midfielder position, the Braves have Jose Valdivia, Erasmo Torres, Andrew Rivera and Erik Rodriguez. Ryland Miller and Matt Bleich return after spending 2016 on the reserve team, according to the release.

At forward, Ottawa returns Zach Martin and Cody Peterson, two players McGonigle said will have big roles in 2017.

“Cody is a senior captain,” McGonigle said. “He spent the majority of last season as a wing forward. Cody is as versatile of a player as any coach can ask for and should have a big season wherever we plug him into the team.”

Returners Alexei Lopez and Rufus McIlrath will anchor the OU defense with Zach Tallent and Cole Osborne pushing for playing time, the release said.

A big question for the Braves is how they will fill the hole at goalkeeper left by last year’s all-conference selection Edward Maya. McGonigle and his staff have three newcomers who will compete for the role.

“John Spells and Angel Cruz are both sophomore transfers and Killian Beck is a local product who will be coming in as a freshman,” McGonigle said. “It will be a very interesting battle for the starting spot, and all three of these guys will make us better from the first day they arrive on campus.”

Ottawa plays two home scrimmages, both starting at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21 and 24 against Benedictine College and Kansas City Community College, respectively, before its first match 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at home against Baker University.