Last year’s 14-3-2 record was always going to be difficult to top, and after a 1-2 start, it seemed as if the potential for a greater season was lost. A huge 1-0 win over the ranked Fort Hays State, however, was enough to ignite the men’s soccer team back into a rhythm for a three-game winning streak. After a home loss against Fresno State to open up PacWest play, the team currently sits at 4-3, just one win below last season’s seven-game start.
“We realized that nothing is given to us this year,” said senior defender Matias Rodriguez. “We really have to work to be at the level we were the year before.”
All three games during the 1-2 start were decided by 2-1 margins, but the entire stretch was considered the lowlight of the season thus far. Head Coach Phil Wolf, now in his seventh season at the helm, mentioned not only the need to adjust but also a rough patch of injuries that contributed to the rough start.
“It was just kind of a slow start. College soccer’s a little bit unfair in the fact that you come in and in the third week they expect you to play your first real game,” said Coach Wolf. “Obviously we were a bit nicked up that second weekend, Wiktor wasn’t around, we were missing Indiana and a few guys. You can’t be short too many guys and expect to play well. The guys got it going a little bit, and hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Senior goalkeeper Wiktor Lasota, who played for only 25 minutes in the team’s 2-1 loss to Western Washington but has otherwise been on the field for every moment, has 18 saves so far this season. Senior forward Indiana Fuller, who recorded a hat trick during the team’s win at Biola, mentioned teammate Lasota as a key contributor to the team’s recent success.
“I’d say Wiktor’s been playing a vital role,” said Lasota. “He’s had crucial saves at different times in the game. I’d say he’s one of the key players right now.”
Matias Rodriguez also mentioned the team’s younger players and bench as major factors.
“I think the young guys are really carrying a big load on their back…guys like Andrew Kleszewski, Teague Anderson, Pascal Rodriguez, they’ve been big time. And Tim Siegried’s been showing really well. I think it’s the weight they’re carrying right now, what they’ve put on their shoulders from a lot of the older guys…even the guys who are on the bench cheering us on. Even though they’re not getting minutes, they’re coming in with a positive attitude. They’re working like crazy, making it really difficult for us in training and hence easier in the games.”
While 4-3 may seem like a decent start, the standards among the team are extremely high. According to Coach Wolf, when considering the team’s performance last season, their current goal is to win the league.
“We wanted to win the league from the very beginning,” said Coach Wolf. “Last year we went 11-0-2 and came in second, all because someone went 12-0-1. That’s kind of been in the forefront of our minds since that moment.”
The team that won the league last year was California Baptist, who is no longer a part of the PacWest.
The men’s soccer team’s next matchup will be at Notre Dame de Namur on Thursday, and their next home game will be Thursday, Oct. 4 at 1 P.M. against Concordia.