Men’s soccer starts strong thanks to young talent and a strong bond

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Going into a season, players, coaches and all fans have their own expectations.

Players expect to have a great season and help win games.

Coaches expect the team to play together to reach the ultimate goal of winning a championship.

Fans expect their team to put together a winning season to watch them get a chance to play for a title.

The expectations are high for Rowan men’s soccer. They are eyeing the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title and a chance to play in the NCAA Division III championship tournament.

Coming off a season-ending loss in the conference semis to eventual NJAC champions, Montclair State, the Brown and Gold’s 2019 intentions are clear. 

“Our expectations are the way we started the year,” said head coach Scott Baker. “We want to win the conference, we want to make a run into the national tournament and when you do that, then the chances are there to win a national championship.”

The Profs are led by their freshman forward, Jay Vandermark. The two time NJAC Men’s Soccer Rookie of the Week leads the team with five goals.

While Vandermark attributes his early success to playing at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and at Delran High School, he also credits the quick bond that the team established so early in the season.

“This team, they’re just something else,” Vandermark said. “Everyone bonded so fast, so quick, and we protect each other like there’s just something different about this team. You can’t play bad when you’re stepping on the field with them because it’s such a high tempo like they want so much from you and they’ll always have your back. They’ll be right behind you so it gives me some confidence to play with.”

Mostly comprised of freshmen and sophomores, the team carries only five seniors. Leadership is key, especially with a young team that Rowan has. Baker believes that this is a talented soccer team but the leadership, especially their three senior captains, will dictate the results to the season.

“We’re going to work and train day in and day out to be the best that we can,” Baker said. “But there’s so many times that the players and the team aren’t around us. A lot can go right in those times and a lot can go wrong and that’s on the leadership and we have three, really strong captains with great character and if they grab this and lead by example the way they can, they’re going to have that positive impact on the freshmen and we’re going to have a great season. 

Vandermark goes so far as to call his captains “coaches.”

“Training wise, [the captains aren’t] telling us ‘we’re doing this and this’,” Vandermark said. “But on the field, they take the biggest role in the leadership. They’re always talking, you could always hear the captains, it’s always them. They step in, they make sure everything’s in charge, make sure everything is being done as a team like we’re making sure we have that bond. They’re doing a great job with it.”

Standing at 3-1 so far and coming off their first loss of the season against College of Staten Island, the team travels to the Univerity of Chicago this Friday. Baker believes the team mindset will be different for this game. 

“Well right away, the guys’ mindset will be different because Chicago’s one of the top teams in the country,” Baker said. “The whole weekend, we play North Park [University] so Chicago and North Park are ranked teams and I think going into that, you immediately have a different focus so I think in that respect, we’re going to come out and we’re going to be just naturally more ready than we were to play a team that isn’t ranked.”

Baker also believes that the team should not lay down to a team that they should have beaten, especially with NJAC and national tournament aspirations. 

“We have to show up and be ready for every game, every day, every half, every training session, so we have to put that championship mindset in place but what will be different in Chicago is we’re playing one of the top teams in the country,” Baker said. “That’s real and our players know that.”

The Profs will play the University of Chicago this Friday at 8 p.m and North Park University Saturday at 1 p.m. to start a four game road trip.

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