Men’s soccer faces test on field

| Sports Editor
A Washington University men’s soccer player takes a shot at the first practice of the season on August 19. (Kivanc Dundar | Student Life)

A Washington University men’s soccer player takes a shot at the first practice of the season on August 19. (Kivanc Dundar | Student Life)

The Bears, who began practice August 19, have been well trained by their upperclassmen leaders and their veteran coach, Joe Clarke.  Clarke wants to instill in his team a “synergy where it just seems like there is more of you on the field than the numbers.”

Clarke has been stressing fitness and getting in shape before the season because the Red and Green don’t have the height that some of the other teams have in the University Athletic Association (UAA).  Last year, the team used a defensive counter strategy. They gave up space in their opponent’s half until midfield where they double-teamed and trapped their opponent in order to start a counter attack of their own.  It’s still early in the season, however, making it tough for Clarke to pinpoint what type of strategy they will use this year, but the team will continue to run and pressure the ball.”

Senior forward John Hengel, the team’s leader in scoring, assists and points, agrees with Clarke. “We are going to be more prepared this season and watch more tape,” he said.  “While we are pretty small, we are fit.” He and captain Alex Neumann both share the same main goal for this season: “to win a championship.”

With more than a dozen new guys trying out for the team, there are a lot of new faces on the soccer field hoping to make an impact for the Bears. According to Clarke, Cody Costakis, a junior transfer student from Bucknell, is going to be a very important player on the team.

Even with the large number of incoming players, the team still has a backbone of core players who Clarke believes can bring the Red and Green a chance to win the championship. Clarke anticipates that Randall Schoen, Harry Beddo, Hengel, co-captains Neumann and Nat Zenner, along with goalkeeper Johnny Smelcer, will have very good years.

Several games to particularly watch out for are the UAA rivalry games. Sunday, Oct. 4, the team plays ninth-ranked Emory University in Atlanta. Hengel, along with the other four-year seniors, hope that the team can “finally beat Emory after three years of coming up short.” Wash. U. plays five games at home starting Oct. 11. Opponents include this year’s UAA preseason favorite, 18th ranked Rochester, along with No. 21 Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve.

“The two games over the weekend against Case Western and Rochester will be a huge test of where we’re at in terms of fitness and as a team,” Neumann said.

The October 13 game against Fontbonne University is also great for fans to attend.  Clarke hopes that those who attend can donate one dollar to support the Funding

Foundation. A former Wash. U. player started the foundation after his sister passed away from Ewing Sarcoma, a very rare form of childhood cancer that receives almost no funding.

Neumann believes this year’s team is better than last year’s squad because of “a stronger team chemistry …and everyone playing for WUSTLFC, (football club) and not for themselves.” The team’s fan base has been growing “exponentially” since Neumann began his soccer career at Francis Field two years ago and he hopes “the fan base will keep growing this year and cheer us on to a UAA Championship.”

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