A-10 Awaits Men’s and Women’s Soccer

Forward Quinn Dudek ‘21 takes on No. 3 UNC on the evening of September 11th; UNC triumphed 0-1.
Photo by Olivia Forrester ‘22

 

Drew Eastland ‘21

Sports Writer 

Defense has been the focus for the men’s soccer team. Through five games they have only allowed four goals. While the team’s back line has been solid, the offensive needs some fine tuning before the final season push in October. “I would like us to execute better on the offensive side,” Jordan Hill ’19 said. “We’ve had multiple chances.”

The team hopes to have a strong Atlantic 10 showing and carry that momentum into the A-10 tournament. If they can win that tournament, they can qualify for the NCAA tournament. Last year three A-10 teams qualified for the tournament; making a postseason run is a real possibility for the Wildcats.

The first-year athletes on the men’s soccer team have also shown flashes of potential this season. Mateo Alzate ’22 has played in almost every game and is having a monster season. First-years Henry Howell ’22 has had strong defensive showings, and Jackson Bracy ’22 scored a game winner. “You just never know who’s going to be ready,” said Head Coach Matt Spear. “The pleasant surprise is the freshman.”

The men’s team also is motivated by former player, Coleman Richards ‘19, who was forced to leave the team after multiple concussions last year. “[It] was always my goal to get back out there,” Richards said. “Once I came back home from the summer and was distanced from the program it’s kind of became clear…I made the decision to stop playing.” He describes staying with the team as extremely difficult, but something he felt obligated to finish out. “It’s been harder honestly, being around especially…our first game this season, just watching the guys lace up their boots, that was the hardest part,” Richards said. “At that moment it was more clear than it’s ever been even since making the decision.”

Davidson soccer prides itself on playing marquee matchups each season. This year they have already faced No. 3 UNC and still have matches with No 1. Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. “I want to continue that tradition of playing a hard schedule with exciting matchups…it’s all about the guys,” Spear commented. “If we lose those games, fair enough…but if we win, it’s something they can hang their hat on.”

In the A-10, teams play twice a week with a very short turn-around. The x-factor for the men’s team down the stretch will be staying healthy through the grueling A-10 schedule. “Wellness [will be key]. Last year in October we lost some key guys to injuries,” Hill said. “It’s tough to be at our best when you don’t have…your full arsenal of players.”

On the women’s side of things, the season has been defined by a myriad of injuries. The team has sustained nine in total. Despite the setbacks, players are adamant that they can bounce back. “Concussions have been a major thing for our team so far,” Alexis Pheng ’20 said. “When the injured players come back, we will have a stronger team.”

On senior night, only two of seven total seniors were able to play due to injuries and concussions. Some of the concussions have led to a few girls stepping away from the game. One such player, Shannon Ballard ’19, talked about stepping away from the game. “The toughest thing was stepping away from the sport,” Ballard said. “It was never in my mind that I would not be on the team in some form or capacity.”

The team is currently on a four-game losing streak, and players are focused on ways to improve second half play. Players highlighted strong starts, but a lack of consistency throughout the game. “Recently we haven’t won as many games as we wanted to,” Katherine Smith ’21 commented. “We’re trying to change our mentality to stay focused the whole game.”

Some of those goals for improving second half play include getting one shot on goal, winning the first tackle, and establishing possession. The team wants to play a possession style of soccer where they can dictate the pace. If the team can execute their game plan more often that should translate to more wins.

“We always talk about trying to play our own brand on soccer,” Pheng remarked. “When we execute that successfully, we should expect to win.” Attention to detail has also been a point of emphasis. The little mistakes that each player makes lead to conceding goals and limited goal scoring opportunities. “We need to learn how to finish our shots,” Smith said. “We make a lot of careless mistakes [we need] to clean up those mistakes and keep everything tight.”

The team will start A-10 play next week. In their first two conference games, the team will face La Salle and St. Louis. Those teams are regarded as two of the toughest foes in the conference. “If we can handle that challenge, it will prepare us for the rest of the season,” Pheng said. “I think it’s good that we start out against those top two teams.”

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