Sports / The Prairie Fire / October 9, 2013

Talent secondary to desire for men’s soccer

If you were to ask me last season where the men’s soccer program would be by this time this year I would have said at or around .500 for an overall record. Finishing last season at 6-9-2, it would not have been difficult to predict that they’d hover around there.

The 2012-2013 season brought about change within the men’s soccer program. After previously being 1-16, Knox brought in a new coach, head coach Matt Edwards, who was successful at his previous position and had in-depth knowledge about how to turn programs around.

However, this season the Fire have turned the tables on their opponents in the MWC and have become one of the premier teams to watch this soccer season. With an 11-2 overall record and a 4-1 conference record, they are poised to finish with one of, if not the, best record in Knox’s history.

When looking back, the program has traveled far in its past two years. A big proponent of that change has been coach Edwards. Edwards has brought a sense of accountability, preparation and dedication that was previously not on display.

It could be said that a reason why the accountability, preparation and dedication was never really there before was due to the part-time coaches. Not because they weren’t good coaches but because to succeed at high level within the Midwest Conference you need commitment from everyone involved. It is unfair for athletes who fully commit themselves to their craft to have coaches who don’t have the time to do the same. Hiring someone who is solely committed to doing so can provide the support that players need to reach their potential and perform.

Not only has the team performed well together but they are now playing and acting like a team. In earlier years, players on the team certainly treated each other well and played well together but they have never looked as cohesive on the field as this current squad does.

Previously, senior and team captain Maxwell Gatyas said that “[players] who weren’t willing to sacrifice for the program were weeded out, which left us with a hard-working group of kids.”

Sophomore Abdulsalam Oganla pushes past Cornell Defender Nolan Howe during the 4-0 win Saturday, Sept. 28 at Jorge Prats Field. (Michelle Orr/TKS)

Sophomore Abdulsalam Oganla pushes past Cornell Defender Nolan Howe during the 4-0 win Saturday, Sept. 28 at Jorge Prats Field. (Michelle Orr/TKS)

The effects of the increase in cohesiveness are very tangible and make themselves seen on-field during each game. In comparison to last season, shots on goal have increased by 8.6 shots per game. If you date back to 2010, shots per game have jumped by 10.0 attempts. Not only have the shots increased, but players have been sharing the wealth with their passes to one another. In the 2011 season assists per game were 0.47, less than one assist for every goal Knox scored. Compare those numbers to last seasons 1.35 and this seasons leap of 3.08 and you can easily see that this team is more than happy to pass to one another.

When you watch these men play, you can see that they find just as much joy passing the ball as they do scoring. Being able to put your teammate in a better position is a large part of being successful in any sport and Knox does it very well. Having cohesion amongst each other and working towards a common goal, not to mention being talented, have definitely attributed to their success on the field, as this men’s squad truly fits the definition of “team” in that each player would be willing to sacrifice personal gain for team glory.

Having a very talented group could certainly bring wins but could also bring hardships and losses. When you have a group of players who believe in one another, their coach and their program, you have a formula for success for years to come.

 

See Sports Editor Gavin Crowell’s take on the Prairie Fire’s success

Last week’s coverage of Prairie Fire soccer

Melvin

Tags:  matt edwards maxwell gatyas

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