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Schubert, Master’s Look Beyond Soccer Playoffs

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Mark Schubert is a realist. He knows that if he was the soccer coach at, say, UCLA rather than The Master’s College, he would not be carting a young-but-experienced team off to San Diego for tonight’s season-opening match against NCAA Division I runner-up San Diego State.

“I don’t think our team was scheduled because we’re a powerhouse,” said Schubert, who has compiled a record of 27-15-1 in two seasons at Master’s. “It’s a chance for San Diego State to look good. But it could make an unbelievably outstanding start to our season if we beat them.”

The odds favoring such an occurrence are not as remote as some might think.

The Mustangs lost only one player from last season’s team that posted a 17-5 record (best in school history) that includes a loss to Biola, the eventual champion, in the NAIA District III playoffs.

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This season, Master’s 21-man roster includes only one senior and six juniors. Schubert, however, is accustomed to working with young players. In Texas, he coached more than 500 games at the youth level before becoming an assistant at North Texas State. His Master’s team in 1986 included 17 freshmen.

Despite its youth, Schubert says this year’s team has characteristics he hasn’t seen at the school before.

“We’re setting our sights on the district championship this year,” Schubert said. “When we got into the playoffs last year, we thought we had arrived and, consequently, lost our focus and the game.

“I really look for us to be a very complete, mature team. Our strength is attacking. We have eight players that can put the ball in the net.”

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Foremost among them is sophomore Chris Palm, a 5-foot, 9-inch 155-pound sophomore who led the team with 24 goals last season, including a 10-goal performance against Loma Linda.

In addition, Junior Eric Johnson, a midfielder, scored 11 goals and had 27 assists last season, and three freshmen from Texas--midfielder Drew Denman, forward Mark Wheeler and defender Lance Johnson--are expected to contribute immediately.

If the Mustangs are questionable anywhere, it is at goalkeeper where Chris Bingman, a junior from Thousand Oaks who was a National Christian College All-American midfielder last season, will attempt to replace Allan Bowden, out for the season because of a knee injury.

Defense will be the key starting at 7:30 tonight against San Diego State, which has three of its mainstays back from last season’s 20-6 team. The Aztecs are ranked 11th in the nation by Soccer America magazine.

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Aztec goalkeeper Bryan Finnerty had an 0.91 goals-against average last season, and senior forward Kyle Whittemore, a four-year starter and the school’s all-time goal scorer (58), had 17 goals.

However, Schubert said that the key to San Diego State’s attack is forward Eric Wynalda, a sophomore from Westlake Village who had 11 goals and 11 assists last season.

“When he happens, San Diego State happens,” Schubert said. “We have to control him. We have some players that, if they’re on that night, have a good chance of equaling things out.”


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