Men’s soccer looks forward to improvement

Soccer is a game of bounces. One bad bounce can win or lose a game.

Guilford College’s men’s soccer team had a rough season with multiple unlucky bounces throughout the fall, leading them to finish the season with an overall record of 2-16 and 2-7 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. This caused them to miss the conference tournament.

“Obviously (the season was) disappointing,” said head coach Cory Speed. “I think we expected better things for ourselves this year, but we really weren’t able to reach any of the goals we had set for ourselves … Just a lot of different things in terms of luck not going our way, some injuries.”

Speed also highlighted the team’s inability to capitalize on opportunities.

“We had opportunities to win a lot more games, but weren’t able to capitalize on our chances,” said Speed. “Apart from that, in terms of off the field, there was still a good team atmosphere. The team chemistry is really good. There were just a couple of things that we need to fix on the field to be better next year. ”

The Quakers had a rough start with nine straight losses before a home win  against Shenandoah University, 3-2, on Sept. 23. The team picked up their final victory of the season on Oct. 11, 2-1, against Emory & Henry College.

Junior defender and team captain Brayden Currin commented on these victories.

“We hadn’t won (a game until playing) Shenandoah, our first conference game,” said Currin. “And obviously, those are when the results start to matter. We came out that game and fought a hard battle. I think (it) was very crucial (that) we finally realized we can win a game.”

Offensively, the team struggled. Over the entire season, the team scored only 15 goals. Speed had a goal of averaging 2.5 a game at the beginning of the season. The lack of goals came from a lack of opportunities, as the team averaged 8.8 shots per game.

One area of strength for the Quakers was goaltending. First-year goalkeeper Zach Van Kampen did a good job keeping games close throughout the season as he started in 11 games. He finished his first season allowing 25 goals with a goals against average of 2.44. He had 57 saves with a save percentage of 69.5 percent.

Van Kampen was assisted in goal by senior Michael McShane who played in 10 games. His goals against average was 3.22 and had 44 saves, bringing his total save percentage to 63.8 percent.

Overall, the Quakers had a rough season,and coaches and players pointed toward different games that had a big impact on the team.

“We lost 5-0 to Greensboro and had better chances than they did early in the game,” said Speed. “We continued to get really good chances throughout the game, and I would say in terms of the quality of chances that each team had, the game was pretty even. But yet we still ended up losing 5-0.

“So it was like one of those ‘oh wow’ moments where we did a lot of things right, and a lot of things still went wrong for us. It was kind of like, ‘wow, we played really well,’ and the score line was still really bad for us.”

Van Kampen reflected on the Ferrum College game.

“The game that pretty much summed up our season, for me at least, was the Ferrum loss,” said Van Kampen.  “They scored in the last minute of the game to win. We fought hard in that game. We worked hard.

“Our mental side of the game was not strong enough, and Ferrum had more chances than we did on goal, obviously. And they were more disciplined than us, and that showed in our decision making … in the game in general.”

Guilford is already looking toward the future and working to get better next season. They are implementing workouts, strength training and fitness that have already begun.

“I realized once I got here as a (first-year), in Division III soccer at least, there is not that much required of you as a soccer player in the soccer season purely due to rules and regulations,” said Van Kampen. “What I have wanted from the beginning is more commitment. I want to continue to do things as a team throughout the offseason. Not just during the allotted month of time in the spring.”

Despite their struggles, Guilford is looking forward past the disappointing results of this season.

“You can ask anybody who watched our games on a regular basis,” said Currin. “There wasn’t a game where we flat laid down and quit. We always played the full 90 minutes. We always plugged away at it, and kept going day in and day out in training no matter how the week was going.

“Everybody put their best foot forward in games, training and  everything. We never gave up, and I am proud of everyone for having resilience in the face of adversity.”