BGSU men’s soccer may have been picked to finish fifth in the Mid-American Conference this season, but their unwavering confidence continues to aim for first.
As a whole, the team is focusing on the future; dialing in on their leadership skills, mentality and team culture. As for where they see themselves at the end of the season, seniors Charlie Maciejewski and Chris Brennan are aiming for the stars, in the form of the MAC Championship and the NCAA Tournament.
They’ve been here before: a strong start to the season that leads to a slump as games pass by. But this year, the men’s soccer team is ready to make an impact.
“We just need to focus on keeping a level-headed mindset. … We haven’t achieved anything yet,” Maciejewski said.
And despite losing four talented players to graduation, everyone has stepped up to the challenges ahead. This year’s team is strong in the way they work together; egos are nonexistent.
“Everyone cares about winning, which makes us more organized because we all share that common goal,” Brennan said.
And what they may have lost in talent, they gained in character from this year’s freshmen. Even their reserve players are pushing to get 1% better every day. The team knows they’ll be playing their best soccer at the end of the season — and it’s that mentality, paired with the confidence in their abilities, that will take them to those playoff games.
Men’s soccer still holds a strong senior class. Head coach Eric Nichols defined them as natural leaders who put the team first and noted they had been working on leadership skills in the spring and summer. As a main focus, being intentional about leadership is something that will help them in the long run.
“We’ve had to make sure our personal boxes are checked before leading outwards,” Maciejewski said. “But the entire team is bought in, and they’re becoming leaders themselves.”
Adopting this mindset has helped them become more organized than last season as well. They’re becoming more cohesive, as opposed to relying on the defensive athleticism that started at the goaltender. And they know their goals are attainable, as long as they keep their motions in check and continue to push themselves.
This year’s ranking is unimportant in the long run. The MAC is one of the toughest conferences in the country, but Brennan and Maciejewski remain unfazed.
“We’ve been picked fifth every year for the past couple of years, and obviously we placed second the past two years,” Brennan said. “Rankings are just numbers, and they don’t really bother us.”
Nichols agreed, pointing out they knew things about their team the MAC officials did not.
“From the outside, it looks like we’ve lost a lot of talent and productivity. But from our perspective, we can see the amount of character and quality we have as a team,” Nichols said.
And while the two seniors felt disrespected by continually being picked to finish fifth, they pointed out that they were more focused on themselves and their game.
“Obviously, there’s always room for improvement. Adversity is going to come, and we need to focus on how we deal with that … but mostly we just need to fine tune what we’ve been doing,” Maciejewski said.
At the end of the season, the MAC Championship should be just another challenge the men are ready to take on.