Spring in college means a lot of different things–sunny and warm days, trees and flowers in blossom, and studying out on the lawn. But, spring also means graduation for seniors and some changes happening on the sports teams. Both soccer teams at Maryville College will lose some good senior players this year.
The girl team is about to lose six players, whereas the boys “only” graduate five. But head coach Pepe Fernandez is not afraid of that and believes in his team for the future.
“In 2011, we lost 17 seniors, so most of the players we had this year had no experience,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez went on to affirm his belief that the future of the men’s team is guaranteed.
“We have several top players that were injured and will return with eight starters coming back this next year,” Fernandez said.
With regard to the girls, Fernandez is also confident. He agreed that the team is going to lose a great senior class, but they are more than equipped to handle that.
“We have the most talented group we have had return” Fernandez said.
Still, all these changes and transitions can be tricky. Everyone needs to do their job and be careful with the new additions.
“When they arrive, the first thing we need to do is make sure they are in shape,” rising senior Joe Pinkston said.
There are only going to be two seniors next year in the men soccer team: Pinkston and Adam Spannbauer. They are going to have a special role in the team since they will be the most experienced.
“As one of the two seniors, I have to show to all the younger guys how not to get in trouble and all that kind of stuff,” Pinkston said.
One of the biggest roles of the seniors is to lead by example.
“We lose some tremendous leaders, fostering new leadership with both teams is a major priority,” said Fernandez.
Future senior on the women’s team Michelle Foulke is of the same mindset.
“When you become an upperclassman, a lot of people look up to you, so if I see something that I can help a teammate out with on or off the field, I am going to approach them about it,” Foulke said.
The role of an experienced player in a team is not only to be an example on the field, but also in the everyday life.
The pre-season preparation is not really going to be different for either team despite this transition.
“We do a lot of fitness to get in shape,” Pinkston said. We also have a pre-season game to see how we do, and we spend time getting to know each other. We also have a couple of practices in the pool where we play some games and have a team dinner.”
“Everything in pre-season is about bonding and team building,” Fernandez said.
Team dinners and other kinds of bonding activities are also organized for the girls,” Foulke said. “Coach Pepe and coach Baker are really good during pre-season about getting all of the team together and spending time with one another.”
Bonding is really important for the new recruits. But first, coaches need to narrow down the number of new recruits.
“We recruited nearly 300 kids,” Fernandez said.. “We expect this to yield about eight recruits for each team.”
This is a really hard work, but also really important, as it is going to provide the shape of the new teams.
The coaches are already working a lot on recruiting behind the scenes, as junior goalkeeper Foulke echoes the sentiments of many players when she reported that there aren’t many weeks that have gone by where she hasn’t seen a recruit on campus.
The coaching staff has until Aug. 18 to piece together a winning combination, and, hopefully, all their hard work in the spring season and during recruiting pays off, with training for everyone will start in a little more than four months.
The objectives of the soccer teams will not change despite the transition they will make with new elements and players being added in both teams, as Fernandez explained.
“The soccer teams have core values we stick to. These values guide us in all of our decisions making,” Fernandez said.
In the end, no matter what happens and who is leaving or arriving, both MC soccer teams stick to the same philosophy: “Although the final score is important, our number one goal is to give it our all and have successful relationships,” Fernandez said.
This sums up the mentality of the MC soccer program, and pays testament to the close bond that exists between the two teams. After all, isn’t sport all about enjoying time with friends and giving your best on the field?