As is often the case in the world of sports, score lines did not entirely describe the Columbia men's soccer team's 2013 season.
On the surface, last year's 8-6-3 overall record, the result of intelligent attacking, seems an obvious success. Yet the 1-3-3 mark in Ivy League play dampened the overall sentiment come the end of the season.
But there is certainly cause for new-found optimism in the camp of Columbia's men's soccer team.
“Pre-season has been solid and consistent, which is what we're looking for,” head coach Kevin Anderson said. “You've got a new team leadership that has expanded in the locker room, which is great. We're in a good place. We are looking forward to it.”
The defense boasts an experienced group of players, potentially consisting of fifth-year senior David Westlake, senior Jack Gagne, and junior Bryce Terrill, who offer a combined 108 games of experience.
Add to that defensive know-how the creativity that incisive Ivy League Rookie of the Year Andrew Tinari brings to the table, and Columbia has the makings of a solid framework around which to build a team. While the seasoned duo of David Najem and Henning Sauerbier has graduated, there is optimism about the incoming crop of players.
The first-year additions to the squad have invigorated the pre-season, inspiring further optimism amongst senior players.
“We had a big incoming freshman class,” Terrill said. “Freshmen are all hungry, they're pushing the rest of the team to give forth our best. They've definitely been able to mix in well with us. The team chemistry is going really great. It's a combination of young hunger and a bunch of guys who have experience.”
Anderson says he wants to drive this team as far as possible. “The ambition of any team when they start the season is to figure out a way to play with the best quality they can and combine that with results, and make a run at a national championship,” he said.
Anderson's philosophy has clearly filtered down to the players. They demonstrate a desire to play controlled soccer, built around ball retention and solid build-up play.
“We want to keep possession, look to create opportunities by breaking teams down and not too direct,” Gagne said.
On Saturday, Columbia hosts Michigan in conceivably the hardest game of the season. Last year, Columbia dropped both its games against formidable nonconference opponents: a heavy 4-0 defeat to Connecticut and a 3-1 loss to then-No. 2 Creighton.
And yet, the players seem hungry to be taking on challenging opposition again.
“We are expecting a ton out of this game,” Westlake said. “We expect to win and nothing less.”
“Everyone knows Michigan is good,” Terrill added. “But every college team wants to get a first win under their belt. Hopefully from there we can keep improving.”
Columbia lines up against the boys from Ann Arbor at 3 p.m. this Saturday.
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