The men’s soccer team looks forward to an exciting new season with both new and experienced players alike. After a disappointing competition in last year’s semifinals, the team has been working towards their dream of winning the conference championship and qualifying to play in the NCAA tournament.
The first four games were away, two of them in Massachusetts and the other two in San Antonio and Georgetown. Despite their current record of 0–2–2, the team’s practice focus has been sharpening their detail work and fixing mistakes on the field. Assistant coach Jude Anuwe said that these non-conference games are a chance to fix any weaknesses so when the conference season does begin, the team can hit the ground running.
“Jason Hirsch and I have built a good preseason schedule or non-conference schedule, you would say, to prepare them for the rigors not only in the conference, but in the national tournament,” Anuwe said. “So I think this non-conference schedule has been good preparation for the boys, and I think they’re ready.”
With players both experienced and new, the soccer team has a wide spread of ages. But despite their differences, marketing junior and captain Kaleem Nadim said their greatest strength is their teamwork.
“I have been on multiple teams where not everybody fits in together. But this team feels like a genuine family,” Nadim said. “Everyone’s having fun, even in tough times. We’ve had a pretty bad run of games right now, but everyone’s still pretty optimistic.”
Senior midfield Benny Lube has returned this season after taking an injury early season last year which prevented him from playing past the third game. Now healed, Lube is healthy, fit and prepared to take on the rest of the season. As one of the captains of the team, he said he is ready to keep the team’s energy up both when they are doing well as well as when they are struggling.
“[Soccer is] more precious to me than it was. I have a new perspective on it,” Lube said. “This game, theoretically, could be my last, and so I take each game as I’m here for a reason. And we got to do our jobs and focus on right now.”
The team has a game against Texas Lutheran this Friday at 8:00 p.m. and another game this Sunday against Colorado College at 1:00 p/m. Sept. 28t will mark their first ASC conference game, against Howard Payne, who they lost against last year 1–2. While focusing on mending mistakes made last year and building chemistry from these last four games, the players are hungry to win this conference and emerge as champions.
“I think for these previous games, it’s more or less of a wakeup call. We know where we’re at and we know how good we are … and we know what we’re capable of,” Lube said. “When it comes to these next games, we know what we’ve done and … focus needs to be there each and every game and each and every 45 minutes.”
“There’s a big COVID year group here and … this is now their fourth year. We also have a couple of really good juniors [and] a couple of really good sophomores on the team,” Hirsch said. “We’ve got a lot more experienced this year … so expectations are high for us, at least internally.”
The team is thrilled to welcome back older talent, such as Lube, who has recovered from his injuries.
“We didn’t have him with us … we definitely felt it because he is a top player,” Hirsch said. “We definitely feel good that he’s back. He’s on the field and playing really well … right away from the starter preseason all the way till now.”
Six games down, the team is 1–3–2 after playing difficult matches against Babson College, Trinity University, and Texas Lutheran and winning against Colorado College on Sep. 17. They play against Dallas College on Sept. 21 and Austin College on Sept. 23 with high expectations.
“We played two tough matches on the opening weekend in tough conditions. You get on the plane and you [travel] all day and now you to turn around and play the next day and then … play two days later.” Hirsch said. “So we just want to compete in every game and try and make sure we qualify for the conference tournament and then do the best that we can when we get into it.”