The men’s soccer team is preparing with a young team for its first face-off of the 2019 season against Northwood University.
The team hasn’t competed against Northwood University in six or seven years, Head Coach Duke Cochran said, so it’ll be a game about learning who is out there and what system works best for the Bulldogs.
Cochran said only time will tell just how good this team is. Of the 26 rostered players, Cochran said 17 are either freshmen or sophomores, yet they are talented. He said he expects the team to give all they can every game and work hard to improve every day, and of course, break into the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships.
The Bulldogs were back and practicing two weeks before classes started Aug. 14, running two practices every day for the first few weeks and regular training sessions. Cochran said with such a young team, preseason preparation has focused on team chemistry and getting to know each other.
Junior middle Ian McClusky said the young team is a good thing because it affords a new element and allows for more personalization of the team as a whole.
“The younger guys have their youth in general,” McClusky said. “It’s cool to see the younger guys kind of make things their own.”
Freshman forward Luke Payne said the team is hard at work trying to build a strong team bond and work on the tactical parts of the game.
Payne said his main goal this season is to learn from the older players and take in as much as he can. He said he’s been learning from the forwards on the team, specifically senior forward Matt Yankowitz.
“I just want to learn a lot more stuff about the difference from high school to college and what works at this level,” Payne said.
The men’s team is ranked No. 14 of 15 teams in the GLVC preseason poll released Aug. 22.
Cochran said he wants to push this team to be as good as it was throughout the 1990s into the 2000s, when it regularly went to the national tournament.
McClusky said the practices would consist of warm ups, technical work — passing or dribbling — then a possession-style game and some competitive play. The team has also been reviewing scrimmage footage to find areas to improve upon.
“We have to do better defensively,” Cochran said. “If we can protect our goal better I think we have a good shot of being in every game, so to speak.”
Cochran said last year the Bulldogs gave up too many goals and didn’t score enough. Truman is in a tough league, he said, so everyone is a rival, but the team has confidence going into the season.
McClusky said the energy is high before the first game, but the team is trying to keep a level head by not getting caught up in the highs or lows of the season.
The Bulldogs hit the road to face Northwood University in Midland, Michigan Sept. 5.