By CHRISTOPHER FOLS
The UMW men’s soccer team has started its season after defending the title of conference champions. This season, the team is looking to win its third conference title in three years and continue their strong conference performance.
The team has started off this season 3-1 with a 4-0 win over North Carolina Wesleyan College on Aug. 30, followed by a two to one overtime win against 22-ranked John Hopkins University on Aug. 31 at the University of Mary Washington Classic.
They continued this good form traveling to the John Hopkins University Classic with a 2-1 win over sixth-ranked Montclair State University and ended their three-game winning streak with a one to zero loss to Washington and Lee University in the second period of overtime.
The CAC tournament begins on Nov. 2 with the final on Nov. 9, though the Eagles start conference play Sept. 28 home against St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
“Our goals for this season are like they are every season, win the conference championship and make a run into the NCAA Tournament,” said senior captain Lucas Turney.
“With that said, the other captain, Jake Lovinger, and I have emphasized that in order to reach our goals we need to use every practice, weight room session and game to get better. Our goal is to win, yes, but winning is the product of taking every day as an opportunity to improve.”
The Eagles finished the season last fall as the regular season conference champions and back-to-back tournament champions. This has landed the Eagles at the top of the conference rankings by the 2019 Capital Athletic Conference Men’s Soccer Preseason Poll.
“Being two-time CAC defending champion puts a big target on our backs. We will get every team’s best shot,” said senior Ben Ahrens.
Turney agreed with having a target on their backs this season and said, “The teams we play bring a lot of energy when they face us so it’s important that we bring the same intensity to every game we play.”
The Eagles graduated five seniors last year but have 13 new freshmen in addition to the 22 returning players from last season.
In regards to how the team’s playing style has progressed in comparison to last season, senior captain Jacob Lovinger feels confident in this year’s approach by the team.
“Every year our style varies depending on the personnel but due to guys stepping up into roles that were filled by seniors last year, we are continuing to build on our balance of direct and possession-oriented play that we executed this past season,” said Lovinger. “The expectation is to continue to improve this approach as the season comes along, as it has become a cornerstone in our program.”
“One of our coaches, Mike Webb, says ‘good teams find a way to win,’ and I believe that is where we are now,” said Turney.
Ahrens also agreed with this when he said, “it is up to us as a program to be able to adapt and learn to beat teams in many ways.”
After winning the CAC championship in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the team’s post-season ended in the first round of the Division III NCAA tournament. In 2017, they lost 2-0 against Washington and Lee. In 2018, they lost 4-1 to Eastern University after a game-deciding penalty shoot-out determined the 1-1 draw.
Despite cutting it close in previous seasons, the team is determined to make it deeper into the NCAA tournament this semester. Lovinger said, “We have our sights on reaching the sweet 16 and elite 8 where we believe that anything is possible with the talent and experience we have on our squad.”