Men’s soccer’s streak of fourteen games without defeat to begin their season is one of the best stories in North Central sports this fall and the subject of this week’s Cardinal Corner.
A Young Team Finding Its Feet
Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium has long been the home of a winning football team. But this year, the usual Cardinals football aren’t the only one’s dominating out on the turf. Men’s soccer is right there with them, currently 14 games unbeaten to begin their season despite a young and inexperienced roster
Enzo Fuschino: We have seven underclassmen starting, four freshmen and three sophomores. And the sophomores haven’t played a real game yet, so it’s like being freshman. And then we have no seniors on the team. We have one senior who’s been hurt and hasn’t been playing so it’s a very very young team and they’re playing like they’re very mature.
Jaziel Enriquez: I think we’re pretty good at generating chances because we’re fast on the wings and out strikers can finish, defense is solid, we’re good
Sid Marquardt: It’s blown my expectations out of proportion. I couldn’t have imagined us doing this well as my first college season as a sophomore because I didn’t get one as a freshman, so it’s very impressive to me.
Sam Abreu: At first when I got here I didn’t think it would be this tough, this competitive. It really has been a challenge for me adapting, but I think as a team, as a whole we’re doing a really good job of staying humble.
Johnny Kraemer: It’s been really exciting. It’s been fun to be able to chip in on both the offensive and defensive side. As one of the taller guys on the team it’s something I try and do, helping in both forms I guess. Talking out of the back is one of my strong suits. Just that and directing guys in front of me and trying to be a leader.
A Special Group of Players
The results on the field so far have proven that this is a special group of players. Soccer requires eleven individuals working in tandem, and it’s clear that through the entire roster there is both unity off the field and collective understanding on it.
EF: The chemistry. The family atmosphere that these guys have. I met with all the freshman early in the season and they all expressed a lot of enthusiasm on how they felt welcome right away and how they felt their second family away from home here. So that’s one of the special traits of this team.
SA: We learn a lot from each other. We’ve got a lot of young guys. Make sure we stay on tap of school and make sure we help each other out. We’re always looking out for one another.
JE: I think it’s a pretty good thing because we get better and better each year, next year we’ll have a better team with better chemistry
SM: It means everything because our captains do a really good job at introducing every young player. Our team chemistry is very high and we bring a lot of energy to not only games but also practices.
JK: It’s actually really nice to know that everyone on the team has so many years left and we can just progress so much more in the coming years.
A Defining Win
This young team faced it’s biggest test of the season last week, when they traveled to then number 16 Carthage College and left with a 1-0 win. For the players, they proved to themselves just what they’re capable of.
EF: Well, we had some other tough games before. With a bunch of freshmen it’s such a young team, you never know how they’re gonna react to adversity. We’ve had some games where we’ve had to face some adversity and they just went through it very easily. So on Saturday night we all knew it was a tough game, we all knew it was a special game. But we also knew it was a game like any other game.
SM: It meant a lot because I know how much it means to these captains, and again I know that chemistry is huge. So to do it for them and do it for ourselves as we compete and keep going on in the season.
JK: I have quite a few friends I knew from club soccer that played at Carthage, so it was just extra special for me.
The path to a regular season conference title, and possibly more beyond that, is now clear for this group. Now their toughest challenge is to not get ahead of themselves.
SM: I think we just focus on one game at a time and every time we go to practice we make a new step today and do it again tomorrow.
JK: We just try to stay humble, stick true to what we’ve been doing the whole time. Stick to our goals and just keep trying to achieve them on the field.
The Road Ahead
Despite their record, the Cardinals are still struggling for national recognition. But for Enzo Fuschino, it’s about his players not worrying what anyone else thinks and keeping their focus squarely on their own game.
EF: Hard work, preparation, and as I said before not taking anything for granted. Just earning everything on the field. Knowing that nobody’s gonna give us anything. Dedication, passion, work rate, lots of things. But these guys are a special group.
We’re just taking one game at a time and I’m very pleased with how things are going. Winning conference is definitely a goal that’s achievable and hopefully get a postseason berth which we’ve never got before. We’ve been ranked nationally in d3soccer.com. We don’t get the national recognition in United Soccer Coaches for some reason. But it doesn’t really matter. The only rankings that matter are the ones at the end so let’s wait a couple more weeks and see what happens.