What you need to know:

*GSU kicks off its 20-match schedule with an exhibition vs. Truett-McConnell on Saturday
*The Panthers open the regular season on Aug. 24 at Central Arkansas
*Georgia State returns 16 players from last year’s squad and welcomes 10 freshmen

ATLANTA – The Georgia State men’s soccer team reported to campus this week to begin preparations for the 2018 season. GSU returns ample players from last year’s squad and is building toward another successful season.

The Panthers open the year with three exhibition matches, beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday vs. Truett-McConnell at the GSU Soccer Complex. Georgia State then hosts North Florida on Aug. 14 before traveling to Jekyll Island, Ga. for three days of training and their final exhibition against Jacksonville on Aug. 18. GSU begins the regular season at Central Arkansas on Aug. 24.

“The Truett exhibition will be purely aimed at getting guys on the field and getting accustomed to playing with each other,” head coach Brett Surrency said. “We hope to get our new freshmen extended minutes for them to get acclimated to college soccer. Against North Florida we’ll increase that a little bit, maybe play guys longer as we continue to build up their fitness levels and then Jacksonville will be more the same.”

Georgia State returns 16 players, including seven returning starters, from a squad that finished 12-7-1 and took second in both the regular season and the Sun Belt Conference Tournament last year. The reigning Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Clinton returns for the Panthers as well as all-conference honorees Hannes Burmeister, Max Hemmings and Liam Fitzsimmons. GSU brings back most of its back line, a group that led the conference in shutouts and goals allowed in 2017.

“I think we’re going to have a talented group. We’ve got a group of seniors where most of them have been in the championship game of the conference the last three years – that’s all they’ve known,” Surrency said. “What’s nice is we can learn from their experiences and what it takes to get to that next step and that next level, and for us that’s the goal. We have won a lot of games, and that’s something for these guys to be proud of, but we want to win something because we think that’s the type of team and type of level that we’re at.”

Other key returners include Lukas Joyner, George Proctor and Alex Summerfield. Forwards Frank Rosenwald and Javen Palmer are also back, a duo that scored three goals and dished two assists last season.

The Panthers bring in 10 freshmen to mesh with their nucleus of returning veterans. The group is a blend of international prospects and in-state talents that have an opportunity to help GSU reach new heights.

“It’s an interesting year with mix – usually when you bring in this many freshman it’s because you’re rebooting and reloading, and we don’t feel that way,” Surrency said. “We feel the guys we have coming back are really talented and it’s going to be an excellent mix between them and the new players.

“We’ll lean on the returning guys that’ve been in those positions and seen how close we’ve been to try to be mentors and pass on that knowledge to the younger players to hopefully get us over the edge and be a conference champion and participant in the NCAA Tournament.”

Georgia State will stream four of its home matches during the 2018 season on its official audio and video service PantherVision. Fans will be able to stream the following men’s soccer contests: Sept. 4 vs. UNC Asheville, Oct. 9 vs. Stetson, Oct. 16 vs. Gardner Webb, and Oct. 28 vs. Coastal Carolina. All home matches at the GSU Soccer Complex will be free admission and parking for fans. 

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