Diary of a Captain (TAYLOR): Rigorous summer workouts bring together Wildcats

Joe Taylor

Every college athlete’s dream is to participate in an NCAA tournament game. After two seasons of failing to achieve this dream, 2007 finally seemed to be the year where the men’s soccer team and myself would reach the promised land. After sprinting out to a 9-2 start, which was highlighted by a win over No. 1 Duke and a spot in the national rankings, everyone involved in the program was certain that the time had finally come. Unfortunately, a series of unpredictable errors resulted in our team missing out on fulfilling our collective dream.

The most painful moment came immediately after our Big East playoff defeat at the hands of perennial power West Virginia. This loss meant the end of our season. A year that seemed destined for greatness ended in devastation. Watching our seniors walk off the field in such a helpless and forlorn fashion was truly heartbreaking. These seniors who had worked so hard during their four seasons at ‘Nova could never quite attain the ultimate goal.

Shortly following that night in Morgantown, I came to the realization that I was down to my final season as a college athlete. Looking back on my first three seasons, I felt empty inside. No Big East playoff wins, no NCAA berths – just a lot of near-misses and close calls. My fellow classmates echoed the same sentiments; we felt like under-achievers.

Coach Carlin stressed to the team, in particular the rising seniors, that ruing missed opportunities would be a serious waste of our time and energy. Instead, he urged us to make the most out of the time we had left. With that being said, he instilled a newfound urgency in the team, causing training sessions to become much more intense, despite the fact that they took place insanely early in the morning. Although we lobbied hard to have the 6:30 a.m. practices moved to a later hour, Carlin insisted that the early wakeups built character, vowing to make the pre-dawn training sessions a staple of the program for years to come.

Although the spring season may have concluded in late April, the hard work had just begun. Coach handed out a detailed workout packet for the summer months, which included weight training, skill work, agility, fitness and nutrition. Much to the dismay of a few of my teammates, McDonald’s was somehow left off the nutrition portion of the packet. The coaching staff certainly dropped the ball on this one.

Surprisingly, the strenuous summer workout regime flew by, leaving preseason right around the corner. We could all see the light at the end of the tunnel, for the season was closing in on us. Unfortunately, there was still one obstacle standing between our team and another shot at the Big Dance – that obstacle being the annual fitness test, which takes place on the first day of preseason. Personally, I dread nothing more than this grueling test, and I know for a fact that my teammates feel the same way. The days leading up to the test are brutal. Your insides turn and churn with nervousness as you begin to fear the worst. Your mind begins to question your manhood, both mentally and physically, as doubts run through your head. What if the heat is excruciating? Will I be able to bear the pain? Will I even make this punishing test? Does Carlin feel sorry for me?

Thankfully, the test is never as bad as it seems, and after an hour of hard work it was over for another year. The fun was now upon us. Sort of. The coaching staff implemented three-a-day training sessions that began at 6:30 a.m. If you needed treatment from the training room, you were waking up a little after 5 a.m. Sandwiched between practices were film sessions and team meetings. The days were jam-packed with team-related activities. The good news? Our team is bonding like never before. The freshmen are fitting in perfectly (including incoming rockstar Steve Paresi), as their personalities have meshed well with the upperclassman. This smooth gelling process can be attributed to the freshmen’s impressive knowledge of fine cinematography (i.e. “Super Troopers,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “Superbad.” etc.) Way to be prepared for preseason, freshmen.

During my four years here at Villanova, I can’t recall a more fun or effective preseason. As a team, we have achieved a great deal on and off the field in a matter of just two weeks. Due to this quick progression, there is a great feeling of optimism within the program that this may be the year we finally breakthrough and reach the NCAA tournament.

Our season officially starts on tomorrow, when we take on Philadelphia rival Temple here at Villanova over at the Villanova Soccer Complex at West Campus. The game starts at 4 p.m., and it would be great to see a lot of faces in the crowd.