Max Pearson ‘22 & Drew Eastland ‘21
A tale of two seasons. In the 2018-19 A-10 regular season, Davidson Men’s Soccer was a force to be reckoned with. A solid group of returners mixed with exciting new freshmen made for fast, high-scoring games and a good atmosphere in Alumni Stadium. On paper, this year’s team is shaping up in much the same way, with only one regular starter graduating and a talented cohort of freshmen joining the ‘Cats should be poised to dominate the A-10 once again.
This season marks a new era in Davidson Men’s Soccer, with the addition of Head Coach Mike Babst. Following six successful years of coaching at UChicago, Babst gradually made the transition to Davidson in the spring semester.
Davidson’s former Coach Matt Spear (‘93) moved on to the Richmond Kickers semi-professional team following an extremely successful campaign.
Babst’s soccer career started as an assistant at the University of South Carolina. He then became an assistant at Northwestern from 2012 until 2013.
Babst’s first head coaching stint came at the University of Chicago. At Chicago, Babst led his Division III squad to two national semi-final apperancees. He attained a record of 87-23-12.
So far, Babst’s Division III success hasn’t translated into Division I.
Only a few games into the regular season, Babst’s new regime is visible all over the pitch. Most noticeably, the traditional 4-4-1-1 formation has been replaced with a more modern variation of 3-5-2. Such a drastic change may take some time for players to get used to, but in the first game of the regular season it seemed to work well. The ‘Cats looked solid in defense against Wake Tech, and only conceded a goal as a result of an uncharacteristic defensive miscommunication.
This formation creates a lot of stability in the center of defense while allowing wingbacks to get forward and be more creative.
The result against Wake Tech was not impressive, however, there were good signs throughout. Davidson dominated shooting and corner statistics and were by far the better team overall. Wake Tech was not a good match for a Davidson team that will thrive against more equally matched opponents. The Eagles were able to close ranks and get bodies behind the ball. In a game against more adept opponents, Davidson’s new style of high tempo, expansive soccer will cause defenses a lot of problems.
In the first three games of the season, the ‘Cats have not shown the same consistency in front of goal that they displayed for much of last season.
The team is in the midst of a long four game road trip, and won’t take the pitch at Alumi Stadium again until September 21st against St. Louis.
Although Babst has ventured into rocky waters, there is still plenty of time to right the ship before running the Davidson soccer team aground.