Though offensive opportunities abounded, the men’s soccer team was unable to manage a win against Western New England University (WNEU) last Wednesday, Sept. 24. Despite the loss, Wesleyan set up superior offensive plays, firing 24 total shots, 12 of which were on goal. The Cardinals were unable to find the back of the net in the 90 minutes played. WNEU only got off eight total shots, of which only three were on target. One shot found the net in the 57th minute to put WNEU up for the rest of the game.
Wes played WNEU on Jackson Field where, over the weekend, the Cards had bested the Bobcats in a 2-1 victory that showcased Wesleyan offensive production similar to that seen on Wednesday.
“I think we’ve had a lot of great energy in the offensive third,” said Head Coach Geoff Wheeler. “[We need to improve] to capitalize [on] our execution and our movement of the ball needs to be better.”
While setting up shots wasn’t an issue in Wednesday’s game, finding the back of the net has posed some challenges for the Cardinal offense. Over the last five games, Wesleyan has netted only two goals, both of which were scored in the game against Bates. That being said, the defense has held strong, allowing only three goals over the same amount of time and keeping offensive opportunities for opponents such as Bates and WNEU to a minimum.
“We’ve slowly been getting better, and unfortunately I think the results [don’t] really reflect that,” Wheeler said. “I’m eager to see the results reflect how we’re actually playing, which at times is very good. But soccer is 90 minutes of confrontation, not 70 or 60 or 89; you have to do it the whole time.”
The 2014 season marks Wheeler’s 16th year with Wesleyan. He has led the Birds to the NCAA tournament as well as NESCAC semifinals and title matches, with an undefeated streak of 15 games along with a 10-game winning streak sprinkled into the mix.
“It’s taken time [to get to where we are today],” Wheeler reflected. “It’s a lot of little things that add up so that the big things go well. Certainly, at the end of the day we have good players, so that helps a lot.”
Asked to elaborate on the little things, Wheeler emphasized the day-to-day practices that helped cement national, conference-dominating teams.
“I think the little things are just daily habits: being on time to class, being on time to practice, eating the right things at each meal, going to bed at the right time,” he said. “Because they all have a cumulative effect that translates [into] the game.”
This year, Wheeler hopes to see the team grow as it has in the past.
“Our goal every year is to reach our potential,” he said. “We need to build to that every day of the week and every game that that presents itself. This year, I feel like we’ve been building and we need to find [and] make better decisions around the goal so that we can score some goals. And the same would apply to giving up goals. We have a lot of exciting pieces in place, and we’re trying to find out where they need to go.”
In addition to all 11 starters from 2013 returning to play for the Cardinals, the team boasts first-year talent that has been instrumental to some of the Birds’ successes this season. While noting the usefulness of having an arsenal to work with, Wheeler said he hopes to have all members fit to play in order to fully utilize a well-rounded roster.
“It’s a juggling act,” he noted. “The fact that four of our eight seniors are currently injured throws another wrench into it. So it would be extremely helpful if we got healthy and had everyone available to us so that we can be [at] our strongest.”
Wheeler and the Cardinals hope to exercise their strength in an upcoming game against Hamilton this Saturday, Sept. 27. The Birds will be hosting the Continentals at 1:30 pm.
Leading up to the match, Wheeler hopes to see the team improve in three areas. The fruits of his team’s labor will be realized Saturday afternoon on Jackson Field.
“[We’re looking to improve] commitment to each other, concentration levels, and decision-making in the final third,” he said.