Men’s soccer rises in national rankings, looks forward to season

By Sophie Afdhal, Sports Editor ||

The Fall season began only a few weeks ago and the F&M men’s soccer team already has a long list of accolades to make the College proud. Coming off a run at the Elite Eight and some big player shifts, it was uncertain how the team would fare, but with four shutouts they are off to a strong start.

“We opened the season with what felt like an impossible first tournament,” Dan Wagner, head soccer coach said. Opening with the two toughest games this year and winning both gives us a lot of optimism for this season.”

Wagner is referring to the matchups against Rutgers University Camden and York College, both of which they won 1-0. The team played in the tournament along with three other nationally-ranked teams and played in the championship.

The game against York was not only a strong victory for the team but also a great show of fan support by the campus.

“Our York game coincided with orientation, and the turnout was unbelievable,” Wagner said. “There were probably 500 first-years in blue shirts. They sang the alma mater so loudly at half-time that I couldn’t even talk to my team. I just had to wait for them to finish.”

This represents a shift in school spirit that Wagner thinks F&M is lacking.

“I have always dreamed of an F&M that really gets behind athletics,” Wagner said. “I hoped for a massive crowd during the Elite 8, and we didn’t really get that so I was stoked to see that during York. I believe there is something unique about athletics on a college campus that allows the school to come together. I hope for more support like that this season.”

Game after game this season, men’s soccer is confirming the team is not just on a streak but actually has a great deal of talent.

“We got on a run last season, winning our last 8 games,” Wagner said, “I didn’t know if we were hot or just really good. With the graduation of Ben Beaver ’14, it left a hole for a lot of guys to move up.”

So far this year, the team is undefeated. One of the big questions going into this season was what the men were going to do in goal. This was a concern in light of an accident ending the season of goalkeeper T.J.
White ’15.

“T.J. White was one of the best league goalkeepers last year and has suffered a season-ending series of concussions which created a hole being filled by Trevor Britton [’16], who is the first starting goalkeeper now,” Wagner said. “Trevor has been fantastic and is leading the country in shutouts right now.”

Over the four games, the team has not been scored upon, showing that Britton is up to the challenge of being first goalkeeper. Britton is one of many players that Wagner speaks of with pride. The most lauded are his captains, Chris Scott ’15 and Dave Rosenfeld ’15.

“Dave and Chris are best friends who play full back together and captain together,” Wagner said. “They are amazing captains within a senior class of amazing leaders. Any of those guys could be captains, but Dave and Chris just work together.”

Wagner had no shortage of positive opinions on the two of them as well as two-sport athlete Derek Pawlish ’15.

“I think Derek is the best player in the country at his position while also being an incredible track athlete,” Wagner said, “He is close to being an All-American in two sports.”

Wagner also commented on the widespread talent on the team, making it clear that there is no one star among his players.

“We’ve scored nine goals in four games, and none of my players have scored more than two so a lot of different guys are stepping up,” Wagner said.

The caliber of player talent and the repeated shutouts likely contributed to the major changes in rankings already this season. Men’s soccer began the season ranked at 10, quickly moved to seven, and are now ranked second in the country in Division III.

“I love being nationally-ranked,” Wagner said. “Our guys work really hard, and it’s great for recruiting and donations. If things go well with the programs, you get a lot of support.”

This week, the team took on Elizabethtown College in the Smith Herr Boot game for the “Boot” trophy.

“I am unbelievably excited about the Battle for the Boot,” Wagner said, “We got so many things last year, but we didn’t get the boot, and we really want it here. This is our biggest rivalry, even though they are not in our Conference, making this one of the biggest games of the year.”

Yesterday the team triumphed against Elizabethtown to claim back the Boot.

While soccer is off to a strong start, Wagner still has great hopes for this season.

“My hope for my players is that our guys can learn and bottle what it means to be in a first-class environment and culture so that they leave and can take that with them for the rest of their life,” Wagner said. “And, of course. I have aspirations of going to the Final 4, a National Championship, etc. but we’re taking it one day at time. Things like that our hard to control but we can control our culture, how hard we work, and making sure we have a fun team. Leaders and a team like this don’t always come around like that but we have it.”

Senior Sophie Afdhal is the Sports Editor. Her email is safdhal@fandm.edu.

 

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