Men’s soccer disappoints in conference play

Guilford College junior midfielder Ricky Aguilar heads the ball toward first-year midfielder Rodrigo Gudino on Oct. 24 against Hampden-Sydney College. //Photo By: Abigail Bekele/The Guilfordian

Guilford College men’s soccer is bouncing back from a 2-16 season last year, where they scored a total of 15 goals. Earlier in the season they played exceptionally well, winning four of their first eight games and sending the ball to the back of the net 10 times. However, in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference play the Quakers have only won two game, holding a 2-8 record and scoring 10 goals.

Currently, the team is positioned 12th out of 13 teams in the ODAC. Unable to make playoff contention this year, sophomore goalkeeper Zachery VWan Kampen says that his team’s drive to play the sport they love keeps them motivated for practice and the remaining competitions. He understands that the ODAC is challenging but this will not stop him or his teammates from learning from their mistakes.

“Our conference is a marathon,” said Van Kampen. “Whoever is willing to stick it out is going to make it to conference. The team we have this year is very promising.”

As a goalkeeper, Van Kampen has been important to the Quakers. His save percentage for them, 72.8 percent, is his highest in his career. Averaging about five saves per game, Van Kampen’s highest recorded amount is 11 against powerhouse Washington and Lee and East Mennonite. Due to his involvement on the pitch, as well as being able to see the entire field of play, Van Kampen has attained the role of field general during competition.

“Part of being an effective goalkeeper is being able to see where the ball is going and seeing what the opponent wants to do based on their positioning,” said Van Kampen. “My job is to command my guys and place them in an optimal position to protect the net. They will still do what they need to do without me telling them, but not as effective sometimes.”

Head coach Cory Speed has focused this fall on scoring goals. Although losing many conference games by multiple goals, he says that many of the games they have lost are because the team does not capitalize on opportunities early in the game and it results in the opponent scoring because of the momentum shift.

“The biggest thing we have to improve on is scoring goals,” said Speed. “There is only one game that we have been outplayed, all the others are because we were unable to score. We have more possessions and putting more pressure on the opponents this year, but we still need to work on capitalizing on that.”

First-year Victor Jimenez has capitalized most from the goal-oriented practices. He holds the most goals for the team at four and junior captain midfielder Ricky Aguilar holds the most assists at five, third-best in the ODAC leaderboard. Jimenez has started in 13 games while Aguilar started in all 16 games. Jimenez and Aguilar are able to provide many opportunities for the team to get ahead early when both are on the field.

Speed, as well as his upper-classmen athletes, believe that this year is a turning point for the program. He is optimistic about with his first-year class, such as Jimenez, and their ability to play. Junior forward Louis Guzman also says that the first-year class has helped the team perform better this year.

“We have a group of young and talented players coming in this year,” said Guzman. “These first-years have brought a different level of intensity to games that we have not had before. They also have added a lot of depth to our team and that has impacted our play tremendously.”

Van Kampen has picked up on this as well. He says that being a sophomore, he can tell the difference in practice during his two years at Guilford.

“The culture that coach Speed has been promoting this year is fantastic,” said Van Kampen. “He and our new assistant coach (Thomas Deeley) have really improved the mentality of wanting to get better every day and the atmosphere has become more competitive than it was in the past seasons. I believe that is showing in the games that we play.”

Speed is eager for his athletes to arrive at practice ready to compete with one another. He says that the shift in their training regimen may not show this year but through time the team will begin to evolve into a well-developed program.

“Coaching staff wants our athletes to be excited (about) training and be able to spend time with us and their teammates,” said Speed. “We want them to go out and play in a competitive atmosphere, which I think is the focus for us every day, how do we get better and how do we enjoy doing that.”

The soccer team beat Hampden-Sydney College at home in their senior night, 2-1, on Oct. 24.