NEW YORK - The 2016 Ivy League Men’s Soccer Champions return to the pitch for the first time this season on Friday, when Columbia (0-0) visits UMass (2-0) in a 4 p.m. tilt.

Friday's contest can be seen live on the Atlantic-10 Network, with live updates on the UMass Live Stats page and on twitter @columbiamsoccer.

The Lions hope to match last season's success, as the squad returns 15 players that started a game last year when Columbia split a conference crown with Dartmouth at 5-1-1 in the Ivy League and 13-3-1 overall.

Thinking Forward
Columbia’s front line is littered with scoring threats, starting in the middle of the pitch. The 2016 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year returns in Arthur Bosua, after tallying 20 points during his junior campaign. One of the captains, Bosua netted eight goals last year when he started all 17 games, highlighted by the season finale and conference title clinching match, when he posted a hat trick with an assist in Columbia’s 4-0 win over Cornell.

On the outside, a trio of juniors with finishing ability hope for more highlight-reel goals this season. Francisco Agrest netted three goals with two assists last year, while Kynan Rocks put in a pair of goals with an assist, and Dylan Mott scored once on his own with two assists.

Middle of the Field
The Lions will be without one of the Ivy League’s top midfielders over the past four seasons in 2017 grad Andrew Tinari, but still boast a bevy of talent in the middle of the field.

A ball-controlling sophomore in John Denis should pick up the slack from Tinari. In 2016, Denis played in all 17 matches with 10 starts, scoring four goals on the season.

Another boost should come from Denis’ classmate Vana Markarian, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year a season ago. Markarian spent most of his time in the midfield, scoring two goals in his 14 starts, including a header in overtime to help the Lions escape Princeton with a crucial conference victory.

Aside from those two, Columbia brings back a wealth of midfield experience with senior Zach Morant (14 GP, 4GS, 1G), junior Haris Stamboulidis (9 GP, 4 GS), and sophomore Danny Laranetto (13 GP, 7 GS). 

The Back Line
Although one defender will have to be replaced from 2016, Columbia presents an experienced back line that should feel familiar with one another.

Another captain, Alex Bangerl, returns after garnering first team All-Ivy League honors as a center back. Even though he spends most of his time as a defender, Bangerl tallied three goals a season ago, including an impressive bicycle kick score at Brown, and a game-winner against Sacred Heart. The 6-2 German started all 17 games last year, 16 during his sophomore campaign, and 10 as a rookie.

Columbia received a nice surprise from transfer Nike Azuma last year, as the left-footed Canadian started 16 of 17 contests, which was the same number as junior classmate Brendan Dennis.  

In Net
A pair of goalkeepers return with big-time experience in junior Dylan Castanheira and senior Zachary Adler.

Castanheira got the start in the final 10 contests, making his mark on the NCAA. The junior led the country in goals against average at 0.29, and save percentage at 0.903, before earning second team All-Ivy League honors by posting a 9-1 record with seven shutouts. Adler held his own, going 4-2-1 in the first seven matches, saving 34 shots with a pair of shutouts.

Also challenging the pair for time with be sophomores Eric Chang and Carter Richardson, who are both looking for their first minutes in net for their Columbia careers.

Even with Columbia bringing back experienced and talent all over the field, eight newcomers should make it interesting for head coach Kevin Anderson. The class of 2021 includes forwards Lucho Gazcon, Sile Ogundeyin, Avi Eller, and Spiros Stamoulis, midfielders Sam Hatem and Beto Carillo, and defenders Yiannis Kounelis and Blake Willis.

After Columbia kicks off the season against UMass on the A-10 Network this Friday at 4 p.m., the Lions will have two days off before a Labor Day showdown with cross-borough rival Fordham at the same time. The team will travel to New Hampshire on Saturday, Sept. 9, before returning home for a 7 p.m. contest against Monmouth on Sept. 12. 

Columbia opens up a three-match road trip at Binghamton, Hofstra, and Central Connecticut, before a trio of games at Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium goes from the end of the month into October. The homestand starts on Saturday, Sept. 30 with the Ancient Eight opener against Brown, before Pitt visits New York on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and Penn visits on the following Sunday. 

A pair of conference road matches take place on Oct. 14 at Princeton and Oct. 21 at Dartmouth, with a trip to Rutgers for the second straight season following on Oct. 25. Columbia hosts Yale (Oct. 29), Sacred Heart (Nov. 1), and Harvard (Nov. 5) in the final home matches of the season, before closing out at Cornell on Nov. 11.