Friday marks the beginning of the 2011 men’s soccer campaign with the Red facing off against Niagara at 7 p.m. at Berman Field. Team members said they are particularly excited for their first season opener on home turf in the past few years.
“We’ve been building up for this season and come tomorrow we are ready to play under the lights,” said senior midfielder Jimmy Lannon.
The young squad is made up predominantly of underclassmen, featuring nine freshman and 10 sophomores. Last year the program graduated 11 seniors, so this season the pressure for the new talent to perform well is especially high. So far the Red has experienced a very successful preseason, according to head coach Jaro Zawislan.
“I’m really proud of all our players and their work ethic through the preseason and how they are coming together,” he said. “However, we are still a work in progress.”
The team is working hard to develop the ideal game plan that it will need to perform at its peak tonight. Zawislan says that the lineup will include players from all four years.
“If you are sharp on the field and are getting it done, you are going to play,” he explained.
The dedication that the players are showing during each and every practice is what will ultimately determine who gets the most playing time.
“The ones who are performing the best are the ones who are going to play,” Zawislan said. “That is what creates the competitive environment here.”
The squad has a highly competitive side, with every player working hard to push his fellow teammates to take the product on the field to the next level.
“Over the past three years the opportunity to play varsity has become harder, which is a credit to the returners,” Zawislan said. “They have to earn their roster spot every day they show up on the field. They represent themselves, their family, the University and the city of Ithaca. They are proud of themselves.”
In addition to being highly committed to the sport they play, all of the players exhibit great leadership both on and off the field, according to Zawislan.
“[For] the leadership in our program, we emphasize that we count on every player to be a leader in their own way,” the head coach said. “Leadership is making an impact on and off the field.”
The team will be led by a group of five seniors and five juniors, all of whom have proven that they are leaders in their own right. One of the players at the forefront is Lannon, who has been a role model for other players since his sophomore year. Zawislan explained that positions of leadership are given to players who go above and beyond what is expected of them and are dedicated to helping their fellow teammates improve.
“The group of players is really taking the team to the next level,” he said regarding the newest batch of recruits.“For ... training and the two games we played during preseason, we are confident everyone is ready to contribute. They are playing [well] enough that we can choose from anyone.”
The squad’s main focus is to play the season one game at a time, not getting ahead of itself.
“The goal is to improve from game to game and be better than the other team as we work down the schedule.”
How well the team will perform tonight is based on a few different factors, the most important being how much each player contributes to the game.
“The culture and philosophy of the program is that you have to earn everything you get out of an experience,” Zawislan said. “Everything we do is to show people that we are working hard, we have a good work ethic, and we are earning it.”
The future looks promising for the players; however, the coaches say that nothing is ever guaranteed.
“It will come down to execution of game plan and I believe our players are capable,” Zawislan said. “Our opponent[s] will only play as well as we allow them to, and vice versa.”