Freshman and sophomore players lead soccer teams in goals, points
At the collegiate and professional level, young players often encounter growing pains as they adapt to the difference in game speed, physicality and overall competition. However, for sophomore Danny Meyer and freshman Jacqueline Kaufman, their underclassmen designations are just that — merely designations.
Both recruited from out-of-state, each player is leading the offensive attack for their respective soccer teams.
Kaufman was initially recruited as an outside midfielder, but a shift in formation caused her to move up to forward.
“I really like it,” Kaufman said. “I like getting to score a lot more. It’s fun.”
Kaufman said her love for sports, specifically soccer, stemmed from her early childhood experiences with her father.
“I loved sports as a kid because that was a way I really connected with my dad,” she said. “I grew up just sitting on his lap watching football and talking sports with him.”
After being diagnosed with a liver disease at the age of 10, Kaufman said she debated on quitting soccer altogether. Upon not receiving the recruitment offers she was hoping for, she said she was ready to hang up her cleats for good.
A phone call from women’s soccer head coach Kanute Drugan expressing the team’s interest in her changed that.
Kaufman explained the key game aspects she focused on during the off-season to prepare for her first season as a Comet.
“I tried to work on my shot and perfect (it),” she said. “(Also), making the smart pass and having a better touch on the ball.”
Kaufman said she wasn’t sure what to expect coming out of high school. An Illinois native, she said one of her biggest concerns was the thought of not being able to make connections at UTD.
“Being so far from home, (I thought) I wasn’t going to be able to connect with the southern culture,” she said. “That really worried me, but I’ve made a lot of really good friends … I like the south and I like the southern hospitality.”
One of 15 freshmen on the roster, Kaufman has recorded nine goals, including four game winners, and accounted for 24 points — all team-highs.
As a collegiate soccer player, she said she’s realized the importance of teamwork and its direct correlation to success on the pitch — something different from her playing career in high school.
“In high school, you can basically be a ball hog and be great,” Kaufman said. “Everyone on the team will still love you because you put the ball in the back of the net, but if you don’t use your teammates in college, you’ll wind up getting the ball taken (away) easier and getting knocked down a lot.”
Meyer, who started 21 of 22 games last season, primarily played as a left midfielder in his first season as a Comet. He is now the team’s leading scorer. He attributes much of his success to a change in position.
“A large part of the reason why I’m scoring a lot is because I’m playing at forward,” Meyer said. “Last season, I mainly played as left mid. Also just from having that one season under my belt, I knew what to expect this season.”
Men’s soccer head coach Jason Hirsch said he decided to move Meyer up to forward after seeing his knack for putting the ball in the back of the net during practice.
“Being a forward, a lot of the time you’re playing with your back to the goal, which means you’re facing your own goal,” Hirsch said. “You need someone up front that’s strong and that can hold those balls up, but then also has the speed that if we’re on a counter attack and we played him behind the other team, that (he has) the speed to kind of run on to the ball and beat defenders to it. He’s got both of those attributes.”
Meyer, a recruit from Arizona and a native-born German, said his concerns centered on the uncertainty of the team for whom he was coming to play.
“I was really nervous,” he said. “I had no clue what to expect. I had never seen the team play. I didn’t know how good they were, how good I was compared to them or what their play style was.”
Despite only being a sophomore, Meyer currently leads the men’s soccer team in goals with nine scores so far this season.
With the post-season approaching, Meyer said maintaining consistency and not playing down to opponents will be the points of focus in the team’s bid for a conference championship. The team was bounced out by Hardin-Simmons last year.
“That was something I told myself I (wasn’t) going to let happen again,” he said. “I don’t want to lose to those guys.”
Even though the women’s record isn’t as strong as the men’s, the prospect of getting hot at the right time and developing chemistry further with same group of players in the next couple of years has Kaufman excited.
“In the past (few) games, we’ve made some pretty big strides,” she said. “Our team is definitely getting a lot better. I really can’t wait until the ASC tournament because I think we’re going to take a lot of teams in our conference by surprise that we played early on.”