As the regular season comes to a close, the men’s soccer team is preparing for playoffs after winning the MIAC title. A strong performance will qualify the men for a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
Despite their high ranking, Senior Midfielder Sean Sendelbach explains the team’s attitude moving forward.
“People definitely know we’re a capable team. I don’t think there’s been a target on our backs all season, though. We’ve just been focusing on getting better as a team,” Sendelbach said.
The team attributes their success to their mentality. They don’t worry about what the other teams in the MIAC are doing, they focus solely on playing their unique style of soccer. Sophomore Midfielder Stephan Quie says the Gusties take their own approach to game strategy.
“Coach Middleton, being an English coach, teaches us in an English manner so it’s more based on attacking and really being aggressive, opposed to common MIAC ways of just playing possession or booting it and chasing it. That’s pretty common when you get to some bad teams. They do that and try to get behind the defense, but we really attack strategically and through the midfield and that brings us bigger success,” Quie said.
According to the players, a major component to their success this season has been the team’s drive to win. Along with strong coaching, the desire to win pushes them to work hard in practices and put in the effort necessary to win games.
“We’re really well-coached and dedicated. We focus on playing as a team and playing how we’ve been coached. We’re focused on playing our style of soccer. The main thing is the desire to be successful. We have a coach who wants us to be successful. We have all the returning guys who want to be successful and even the new guys to the program are putting in effort and want to be successful,” Sendelbach said.
At this stage in the season, the team says there’s a mix of mental and physical strain. Sendelbach says that the coaching staff is smart about giving the team days off to make sure they are able to recover and keep a positive mentality. But injuries happen. Senior Defender Zach Schmith says that the Gusties do not let injuries hinder their performance.
“We have a really deep bench this year, which is something we haven’t always had. We’re such a good team as a whole, it’s not about the individual players. There’s no one person who, if they’re out for a game, we aren’t able to recover from losing,” Schmith said.
The players attribute their success to the whole team being strong in every area of play. While the players are individually strong, according to Quie it’s the combination of strength in several areas that has led the team to a strong position going into playoffs.
“We’re a well-rounded team with a lot of strong players in different positions. We have Zach Brown on top leading goal scorer, David Lilly in the midfield leading assists, and then we have a strong defense. So I think we’re strong in every area and that’s what’s key of a good team,” Quie said.
With many strong players, there are also several team captains to help the team stay on track. Regardless of the number of captains, Schmith says that every player is capable of leading the team. He says that although he is a captain, he feels no different than any other player on the team and that the amount of leadership on the team is a testament to their talent.
“Even though I’m a captain, my role isn’t different than anyone else’s. The only thing I do is some administrative things. Honestly, everyone is good enough and has enough leadership qualities to be captain. I just have seniority and all the seniors are captains,” Schmith said.
Because the team is well- rounded and the men have learned to have a unified team mentality, many of the player’s individual goals for the season mirror their overall team goal of returning to the NCAA tournament. Sendelbach says he knows the team is going to be handed a trip to the tournament, but they are willing to put in the work required to get there. Schmith has high expectations for the remainder of the season.
“I think we’re going to do well in playoffs and end up in the national tournament,” Schmith said.
Sendelbach says it’s rewarding to see their hard work play out and move the team into post season.
“You don’t really expect all the success you might have all season, but you expect something for all of the work you’ve put in. It’s nice to know the effort pays off,” Sendelbach said