Second-year head coach Eric Da Costa has high hopes for his soccer team this season, even though it was picked to finish eighth in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches poll.
Last season, the team tied for seventh in the NEC with a conference record of 3-5-1 and an overall record of 6-11-1. However, Da Costa feels this year’s team has the potential to make a quick turnaround.
“The key to this season is going to be patience,” Da Costa said. “I was impressed with our preseason workouts and we brought in a solid recruiting class along with some transfers to add to our talent pool. We are setting the bar high for ourselves.”
Captains Francis Mavula and Paul Fleck have facilitated a smooth transition despite so many new faces.
“Francis and Fleck have shown great leadership early on and are pointing this team in the right direction,” Da Costa said.
Fleck has had the difficult job of filling the shoes of last year’s goalkeeper Ken Lewis. Along with transfer Frederick Hall and freshman goalies Alexander Rousselle and Wade Johnson, Da Costa believes that the graduation of Lewis will not force the team to take a step backwards.
“Every position on the field is a battle by all members of the team; we do not have a starting lineup. On any given day, any member of the team has the chance to step up, play well, and help this team win,” he said.
Among the 12 new Bobcats, several have stepped into large roles so far this season. Transfer Danilo Schiavon and freshman Kevin Nunes and Fabrico Silva have seen significant playing time in the midfield in non-conference games against Northeastern and Holy Cross. Freshman Shane Recklet has developed into a key component on defense.
According to Da Costa, the strength to his team is its ability to score quickly and effectively. Graciano Brito and Mavula were two of the leading scorers in the conference last year and Da Costa looks for them to lead the team again this year. Mavula tallied seven goals and three assists, sixth and fourth respectively in the NEC, while Brito scored six goals and assisted on four, both of which were tenth in the NEC.
“We have great team speed and overall talent offensively. We should be able to score plenty of goals this year,” Da Costa said. “If we can improve our defending and minimize the amount of mistakes we make, then I believe we can reach our goals of qualifying and winning the Northeast Conference tournament. As long as we compete every game like we are capable of, the results will come.”
Prior to conference play, the team will travel to Chapel Hill Tuesday to face the University of North Carolina, which was ranked fifth in the country in preseason polls. Da Costa looks for this match to prepare his team for NEC play, as well as provide his team with an invaluable experience.
“The importance of going to play at North Carolina can not be measured in words. The experience for our team as well as the program as a whole is monumental,” Da Costa said. “There is no better competition in the country and we will surely be ready for the stretch run come October.”
In early action this season, the Bobcats have lost their first two matches to Northeastern and Holy Cross. While the results were not what Da Costa was hoping for, he saw numerous signs that his team is close to hitting their stride.
“We played very well in our two non-conference games so far and against Southern (Connecticut) in a scrimmage. We have a great attitude but had trouble executing at times. Once we work out the kinks and cut down on key mistakes, we will be ready for NEC play,” he said.