When assessing men’s soccer’s potential in the difficult field this upcoming season, the Cardinals’ 2018 winning stats alone do not give the full picture. The team is coming off a 4-11 overall record and a 2-8 record in conference play. Yet over 15 games, the Cards conceded only 18 goals, leading to a strong goals-against-average (GAA) of 1.16. Offensively, the Red and Black ripped almost 13 shots per game, despite only scoring eight goals on the season. In practice, converting these shots to goals will definitely be a point of emphasis, which is an excellent sign for the Cardinals.
Wesleyan left the 2018 season with a hard fought 1-0 overtime win against Emerson College. This success no doubt left a good taste in the players’ mouths, who are hungry for even more victories this season. Giving these promising stats, there is boundless cause for optimism for this young team.
Last year, Wes graduated five seniors from the team, including both team captains, Teddy Lyons ’19 and Komar Martinez-Paiz ’19. A strong group of first years are already working to fill the void left by the veteran presence.
“The freshman have integrated well into the team, and are eager to make an impact,” Nick Wallick ’22 said. “It helps to have a freshman class that challenges older players, because it raises the quality of play amongst all members of the team.”
This competition for playing time will be vital in bringing the best out of this young team, as every member of the squad will look to elevate their respective games. Additionally, with such a packed schedule of games, depth in the lineup will be key for the Cardinals to ensure that everyone is fresh for the games for which they suit up.
The preparation for the grueling NESCAC schedule is already beginning.
“Last year, I learned that nothing is given, and that you truly have to earn every game,” Wallick said. “NESCAC games are long, and require an immense level of mental focus as well as physical prowess.”
The lessons learned in the hard-fought battles of last season should help propel Wes to a strong start.
“I was injured for almost all of the 2018 season, and the recovery from that taught me a lot about perseverance and dealing with adversity,” Gaelin Kingston ’22 said. “I hope to continue to build resilience in year two, and to stay healthy for the duration of the season.”
In order to prepare for the season, the team has also undergone a vigorous but spirited preseason. In addition to morning sessions in the gym, as well as numerous drills, the Cards have been bonding as a team off the field.
“Preseason has been great,” said Kingston. “I have enjoyed getting to play with the team again, and am feeling healthy and ready to go. We are looking strong as a team, and have been able to spend some quality time bonding outside of practice, which I expect to contribute positively to our chemistry on the pitch.”
According to Wallick, this chemistry has been integral to the team’s spirit.
“This year, we have been focusing on valuing the ball more, as we continue to grow together as a team,” said Wallick. “Also, intensity and passion is a key aspect that has risen significantly, which is exciting to see!”
The men’s soccer team will need to be on top of their game as they open the season with three straight home matchups: the first against Middlebury on Saturday, Sept. 7, followed by games against Springfield College and Williams all in the span of a week. They will be looking to start conference play on a winning note against the Panthers, who finished third in the conference in a tough overtime loss last season. Wesleyan fell to 10th in the conference last year.
The Cards play six of their final eight games on the road this season, making for an extremely tough October. Their biggest game of the year will be a home matchup against Tufts, last year’s conference champions, on October 2. There is no doubt they’ll be looking for a lot of home fan support to lead them to victory.
Despite the tough schedule, the team members’ spirits are high.
“I am very optimistic [for the season],” said Kingston. “We have a great group of returning guys, and an exciting first-year class. The energy and passion at practice has been fantastic, and I look forward to beginning the season.”
John Vernaglia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.