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Quinto Elemento vs. Nebraska Bugeaters, 5/26/18

Nebraska Bugeaters FC’s Tobias Maertzke (left) takes a shot against Quinto Elemento in May.

It may have taken a couple of seasons, but Lincoln has finally found its soccer club.

Bugeaters FC plays the final home match of the club’s inaugural season on Saturday, but with the talent the team has found on the pitch, the impressive start is just the beginning.

“The success that we have had on the pitch is second to none when it comes to play at this level (USASA),” club owner Jonathan Collura said. “We have shown that we can compete with anyone in any league. Both Aaron Champenoy (Hastings College) and Mark Heath-Preston (Bellevue University) have exceeded all expectations in helping us quickly develop a squad that represents 12 schools.”

The roster, which is full of players with Nebraska ties, may have exceeded even the most grandiose expectations this season and, with a win Saturday against St. Louis FC Maritsa, the Bugeaters will finish at the top of the table in a division of five teams.

The club is currently on a 10-match unbeaten streak while walking away with wins in six of the matches.

“It’s been great; we have a great group of guys that work hard and it’s their work ethic that has been the difference,” Bugeaters coach Mark Heath-Preston said. “This next match is vital, but we’re looking forward to it. It’s been a fun ride, but we’re looking beyond this season and focusing on creating a dynamic here.”

Heath-Preston, who also manages Bellevue’s team, has been a major component to the Bugeaters’ success this season, especially when considering he began the season as a player.

Since his transition into coaching the Bugeaters, the club has really found its stride after a few early-season losses and they’ve come together as a true team as the season approaches an end.

“The team is really well-rounded and it’s been great to be around the younger guys,” said former Creighton player and current Bugeater J.T. Seger. “We have great depth and the team, especially the younger guys, are really competitive. A lot of these guys could be playing at (Division I) schools and this team has shown them that. Mark has helped everybody this season and hopefully this is just the start for this team.”

The match Saturday obviously carries a lot of weight, but win or lose, the Bugeaters have proved to be the club Lincoln, a town rich in soccer culture, deserves. The club thinks it is now a mainstay in the community.

“We will definitely be back next season,” Collura said. “I know that in the past there have been challenges in the state with clubs being ‘one and done.’ I am hopeful that Lincoln will step up and help back us as we go into the 2019 campaign. I have always said that I want to play at the highest sustainable level as possible. That said, we have shown that we can play with anyone.”

The club’s final home match kicks off at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Beechner Athletic Complex.

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