Throughout Phil Wolf’s five seasons as head coach of the men’s soccer team, there has been a steady increase in expectations which can be attributed to an improved program, a better culture and an all-around more talented roster.
“When I started, we weren’t even [competitive],” Wolf recalled. “Now, we’re really disappointed when we tie a top 25 team, so the standard has gone up”.
Co-captain Andy Ritchie agreed that all players are giving themselves a higher standard and improving their skills through practice and repetition. He connected the increased success to improved chemistry between the players. Steven Velazquez reiterated this point and acknowledged that unity is one of their biggest strengths this year. He also touched on the fact that while the team plays as a cohesive unit, each player has their own set of skills and abilities that amplifies their success.
Although the Sea Lions have countless strengths, they are also going to face tough obstacles this upcoming season. Wolf feels that the biggest challenge will be scoring goals. “We’ve played four games and conceded one goal,” Wolf mentioned. “But we’ve only scored three.”
Goalkeeper Michael Lambert agreed and speculated, “The challenge is going to be not just shutting teams out, but putting the ball in the net and maintaining the lead for wins instead of ties.”
Ritchie believes the answers lie in consistency. He affirmed that the team has the skill, and they simply need to play each game as if it were the only one that mattered. This opinion is shared by most of the players. In fact, Velazquez disclosed, “The team came together to make goals for the year and one of those goals was to play one game at a time.” Velazquez concluded that they need to focus and play to their best abilities, no matter the results.
Despite only one victory so far, Wolf has high hopes for this season. He commented that the team this year is older, more mature and experienced. They have all been through multiple seasons together, which should make for a solid foundation to build upon. Plus, Wolf added, “They’re all really, really good players.”
The team’s primary area of focus can be found within their motto: “Respect, Honor, Family and Excellence.” When asked, Wolf insisted that these are the top characteristics of a quality team. “People when they watch us, or the referee or the other team or fans, they say, ‘You know what, that’s a good group of guys.’”
Ritchie agreed with Wolf’s description of the team’s overall perception. “I think it’s a good motto for the school and the way that we want to be perceived by the other teams, the way we want to act,” Ritchie remarked. “For other teams it’s a lot about winning no matter what, but as for us we want to win in a way that’s respectful and an example of the school’s beliefs.”
The team appears to have the potential and ambition, but a vast portion of the season still needs to be played. With no losses currently on their record, they are 1-0-3. Their next home matchup is scheduled for September 24 against Dixie State.