Graphic by Ben Evans
Written by Nic Fraraccio
The Harding men’s and women’s soccer teams have started their conference schedules for the 2023 season. After failing to qualify for the 2022 Great American Conference (GAC) championships, both teams are looking to climb the standings as the season continues.
The men’s soccer team started the season with a 2-0 road victory against Ouachita Baptist University. The win was Harding’s first victory at Kluck Field since 2013.
Senior forward Elliott Bracy and fifth-year midfielder Georgios Petousis each collected their first conference goal of the season. Sophomore forward Jonah Pastiroff assisted both goals against the Tigers.
Junior captain Andrew Wagner said it was a great way to start the conference schedule despite the physical altercations throughout the game.
“It felt really good, and the guys worked hard,” Wagner said. “We kinda lost our heads a little bit, and there were a few yellow and red cards during the second half, but we were able to see the game out, get the result and keep moving forward.”
Following the historic win, Harding dropped their next three conference games without scoring a goal. This is Harding’s longest goal drought since the 2021 season.
Despite the losing streak, Senior midfielder Tyler Sterbenz said team morale has grown throughout the season.
“I think [team morale has] strengthened because we actually need each other through this period,” Sterbenz said. “The guys have really stuck together.”
The women’s soccer team has continued to battle through tight matchups to begin their conference season. The Lady Bisons have drawn three of their first four games, only allowing three goals during the stretch.
Despite the winless start, the Bisons have provided multiple positive moments to begin the conference season. During the 1-1 draw against Northwestern Oklahoma State University, freshman defender Natalie Gomez scored her first collegiate goal.
Harding has also received some new accolades. Junior Kim Barcenas earned GAC Defender of the Week after her performances against Ouachita Baptist University and East Central University. Barcenas has tallied the most minutes played for Harding so far this season with 829 minutes.
Sophomore defender Katie Cabana said she is proud of the way Barcenas has played and has no doubt that she can win the award again.
“Kim is hands down one of the hardest-working players on our team,” Cabana said. “She truly wants what is best for all of us, and playing with someone who has so much heart makes you want to do the same.”
Harding will host multiple conference home games throughout the fall semester. Both teams will conclude their regular season conference schedules Nov. 4 at the Stevens Soccer Complex.
The women’s team will play against East Central University at 9 a.m. The men’s team will follow up at 11:30 a.m. with a matchup against Northeastern State University.