Diary of a Captain (TAYLOR): Season off to a great start with tough slate ahead

Joe Taylor

No matter what the sport is, every team tends to produce a defining display or moment throughout the course of a season. This moment isn’t always positive; in fact often times it can be devastating. Either way, this moment ultimately points to what direction this particular team is heading in.

On Sunday night, the men’s soccer team had its defining moment. Although the season may have just begun, what happened at Hofstra was truly a transformational experience. After handily defeating Temple in the first match of the season thanks to a pair of goals from sophomore Sean “36 Goal” Mergenthal, we were feeling fairly confident. However, we knew the Hofstra match would be much more difficult. Hofstra is a quality team that has participated in the NCAA tournament twice in the past four years.

After watching them on film, we knew that this match was going to be far trickier than our encounter with Temple. Although we were well-prepared for the match, in the first half we failed to execute our game plan. We started the game slow and unconfident, unlike our opponent, who played with an attitude befitting a winning side. They were quicker than us they were smarter than us, and they played with more confidence. Hofstra poured on the pressure, and eventually our defense couldn’t help but bend.

Thankfully, freshman goalkeeper Chris Bresnahan was up to the challenge. Bresnahan made a couple of crucial saves from point-blank range, allowing us to remain deadlocked at the half. Without his excellent play, we would have surely trailed at the half by a margin of at least a couple goals.

The horn sounded to end the first half, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. As we walked off the field, I began critiquing my own poor play in my head. I looked ahead and noticed Coach Carlin storming away from the bench area. I knew we were in for a classic Carlin rant. Carlin is a hardworking guy who believes in performing with pride and passion. Thus, when he saw the way we played in the first half, he was both baffled and enraged and rightfully so. He started his lecture using a fairly calm tone, but eventually he gave in to his natural instincts. As they say in “Wedding Crashers,” “Nature versus nurture. Nature always wins.” This particular moment was no exception to Christopher Walken’s rule. Coach soon succumbed to his fiery side and launched into a memorable tirade.

“You need to play with pride!” he screamed. “You need to impose your will on this game!” His face turned purple, and he was shaking from head to toe. Coach held it together though, emphasizing a few areas in particular where we broke down on the field. All of his criticisms were right on the money. However, it was the final line of his diatribe that truly woke us up.

“You have worked so hard to prepare for this season, so why aren’t you playing with confidence?” he bellowed.

This poignant statement hit me like a ton of bricks. I was playing tentatively out there, afraid to make a mistake. My teammates felt the same way about their own performances. You could break down the first half in any number of ways, but the root of our problems rested in a total and utter lack of confidence.

We came out in the second half feeling reborn. We actually felt good about where we were stood. The first half could not have gone any worse, yet we were still tied at 0-0. Coach’s speech was a great awakening for our team, and from the minute the half started, we took it to Hofstra. We beat them to loose balls, we won headers over their defenders, we tackled harder than they did and we attacked with creativity and confidence. We were a totally different team.

Hofstra were taken aback at our Jekyll and Hyde act, as the team were now on its heels. After coming close to taking the lead on several occasions, we finally broke through in the 71st minute. A failed clearance from Hofstra fell to my right foot. I brought the ball down and swung in a cross to ultra-talented junior forward Mike Seamon, who finished into the net to give us a 1-0 advantage. Assistant Coach B.J. Callaghan described the final 20 minutes as a knife-fight, and thanks to a tight-knit defensive effort led by an injured Chris Christian and seniors Adam Brazitis and Miles Harrison, we held on for an important road victory.

With two matches versus Top 10 opponents slated for this weekend, it was imperative that we won this match. More importantly though, we learned that in order to defeat high-caliber, teams we have to play with confidence. Now that we learned our lesson, there is great optimism heading into our matches against Boston College and Brown.

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Joe Taylor is a senior communication major from Southampton, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]