The 2017 men’s soccer season kicks off Sept. 1 at home against the Oklahoma Christian Eagles. Coming off of 2016, the team had the best season in program histroy, with 14 wins and the Great American Conference (GAC) Championship trophy.
But according to head coach Jon Ireland, their focus is not on the past, but the future.
“What I tried to do is what we did last year – and it helped us – is to keep it simple,” Ireland said. “The interesting thing about last year’s team when we broke all the records and won the most games in school history, not one time did I ever talk about wins and losses, and not one time did we ever say, ‘Hey, let’s try to have a winning season,’ or ‘Let’s win double digits.’ It was all about keeping it simple, and focusing on what we can control today, and one day leads to the next and if we do things the right way, I believe - consistently over time – we’ll get the results.”
Ireland is not the only person who has high hopes for this team. For senior midfielder Van Thang, the team is just getting started.
“If we work hard like we did last year, I think we have a better team than we did last year,” Thang said. “This year, we have more substitutes that can do the same things as us starters.”
The team is welcoming back 16 upperclassmen and introducing 10 freshmen. Thang said that a big difference with this year’s team is the roster skill level.
“Last year, it was hard for us because we would have to play whole games,” Thang said. “Now, we all can be substituted every 40 minutes, because we all have the same skill level. That will help us to be able to have better offense in the NCAA tournament, which is what our goal is this year.”
The mark of a good team is building on each other; and according to Thang, that is exactly what the team is doing.
“My biggest motivator is just whenever I see that my teammates are working hard, I want to work harder, and then they give me motivation to do better each day,” Thang said. “I can see a lot of players (doing well) because all of them are good at both soccer and school. I’m pretty sure they’ll do great and I think the program is building now. Each year, I think they will improve a little bit and get better and better.”
The Bisons start the season with six non-conference matchups before their first conference game on Sept. 21 vs Southern Nazerene at home. They will welcome Oklahoma Christian on Sept. 2 to begin non-conference play.
Written by student writer Maggie McDowell and asst. sports editor Dustin Schandevel