Brady Boie – Staff Writer
The Gustavus men’s soccer team had an eventful weekend with a scrimmage against Augsburg on Friday and a 8v.8 tournament at St. Johns on Saturday. The scrimmages adequately prepared the Gusties for this upcoming season and showcased their promise and potential. This was the first time that the Gusties laced up this year; all fall competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It had been so long since we had played,” freshman defender Yahya Basir said. “It felt good (to play again), but at the same time it was weird because we didn’t have fans. It was definitely an odd environment”
This sentiment was echoed by senior striker Matthew Gibbons. “The environment was different. Playing with no fans takes part of the fun out of it. Fans mean so much. The part where we noticed no fans the most was when we scored. (We) usually hear cheering but now you just hear your teammates, which isn’t bad, but it’s just different”
Despite these dampened conditions, the Gusties performed exceptionally well. They defeated Augsburg 3-1 on Friday and didn’t lose a single game in Saturday’s tournament.
“The team performed fairly well on Friday given the circumstances. (I think) we could have won by more goals, but in the end we got the result that we needed and can build upon this victory going into the first MIAC matchup against St. Olaf on this upcoming Sunday” Gibbons said. Gibbons, an All-American striker, netted two of the three goals in Gustavus’s victory over Augsburg. When asked about the shortened season, Gibbons gave an answer that any coach would love to hear from their team leader: “We need to take (the season) game by game like we always do. I think that this modified spring season is a good experience because usually we just have training, but now being able to play games allows us to improve so much more heading into next fall”
This resilience and adaptability is exactly what has been asked of all Gusties during the 2020-2021 academic year. All activities have had to have been altered in some way, shape, or form this year because of COVID-19, and soccer is no exception. On Saturday, the team participated in an eight-on-eight tournament. This is odd for soccer players because everyone is accustomed to having twenty-two players on the pitch (11 v. 11).
“It wasn’t a traditional format, we did the best we could with the situation that we were given. The goal of the weekend tournament was to have fun and win, and we accomplished both of those goals” striker Leo Spry said. Spry, a senior, plans on exercising his extra year of eligibility to return for one last season next fall. He, like the other players interviewed, lamented about the opportunities that the pandemic has taken away from them. “Game days are always such a special event, and it just makes you feel some type of way when it’s a home game, and we just didn’t get all that excitement this year. We haven’t really bonded with the freshmen too much; we haven’t really been able to connect”. Basir also mentioned the difficulties of connecting with a new team during a pandemic: “I missed getting to spend lots of time with the team this year, so it’s been a little harder to bond”. Gibbons added, “I think I speak for the whole team in saying this, we miss not being able to play against St. Thomas and Luther, and not being able to participate in the NCAA tournament was a huge drawback of not being able to play in the fall”
Despite all of these difficulties, the Gusties are performing at a high level and show lots of promise. They have won the MIAC championship each of the last two years, and look to be on an equally impressive path. “Things are really starting to click,” Spry said. This is exciting news coming from a senior who played on both of the previous championship teams. Spry’s optimism and energy are emblematic of the team as a whole; everyone is excited to get back on the field and start dominating again. The Gustie men have much to look forward to in this season as beyond and beyond, and it appears as if they are picking right where they left off back in 2019.