By SEHAR JAMAL
The UMW men’s soccer team is back in full swing after winning the conference championship last season. Starting off strong with a four-game winning streak, the players are looking forward to a season that will outdo the last.
Starting from their first game on Aug. 31, the Eagles have been working hard to maintain their champion status. Now, their status is only getting better as they recently won their Sept. 8 game against Johns Hopkins, a team ranked 13th in the nation.
In regards to coming back as champions this season, junior Idrissa Barrie said that “it changed everything; stepping onto the field, we knew keeping the title was important.” Therefore, the team is coming back this season more focused and determined than ever.
This determination is crucial at this point in the season since, as junior Gabriel Soriano explained, “winning the conference championship put a target on our back. Any team that plays us now is looking to get a victory to beat a conference champion team.” Barrie agreed, adding that “as a champion, every team wants to beat you.” This means that they need to take every game seriously, and their winning streak is proof of their hard work.
As far as this season goes, sophomore Jeremy Hokenson emphasized that their goal is to go back to the conference, so “we have to work harder to maintain our level.”
Along with hard work, the team is using a different strategy to make this season better than the last. Barrie explains how “last year we played more direct, but this year we’re playing more diverse which makes our team more dangerous.”
To diversify their strategy this season, they are focusing more on a possessive playing style. Unlike a direct strategy, where passes are long and vertical, possession includes smaller passes and more teamwork. This new strategy is designed to increase possession time since high possession times include better passers with more shots on goal.
This season’s team is also more experienced compared to last season, which included mostly younger players. This season’s combination of strategy, hard work, and experience are enough to place the Eagles right where they want to be: at the top.
Soriano also explained that they are “trying to get more recognition throughout the state,” so they are looking forward to making an even better name for themselves in the second half of the season where they will have a chance to play conference games.
The goals of this team are great, but they are unified and determined to come back better than ever. All three players agreed with Hokenson when he stated that “we have to be better than last year, not just as good as last year.” Barrie also added that their “goal this year is not just to win the championship, it’s to go to the final four and enter the national tournament.”
The team hopes for big things in the future, and, with the way this season has started, achieving them is in the cards for our Eagles.