This past weekend, the Lawrence University Men’s soccer team lost a couple of close conference games. On Saturday, junior Will Nichols scored in the 89th minute of play to put the Vikings within a goal of Cornell College, but they could not get the equalizer and lost by a score of 2-1. On Sunday, Lawrence took on Monmouth College, who jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the 6th minute. Nichols tied the game at one in the 30th minute and first years Wedson Martins Kazambwe and Brenden Vellenga had assists on the play. However, Monmouth came alive in the second half, scoring three goals to Lawrence’s score; first year Suguaru Yoshitake booted a corner kick assist to sophomore Julien Riviere who headed in the goal. Monmouth won the game 5-2.
This season has definitely been one of struggles, especially with injuries for the Vikings. Riviere said, “One of the biggest things we’ve struggled with this season are injuries. We had the conference’s newcomer of the year last year go out after five games for the whole season, and along with that, we’ve had to play games with as little as twelve players due to injuries. In trying to overcome that, we’ve had a lot of guys playing in new positions and just trying to work with the trainers to get back on the field as soon as possible.” Junior Andrea Arivella echoed Riviere, saying, “One of the main challenges about the team this year has been injuries. Unfortunately, mid-way through our season we were hit with multiple injuries and that killed our practice and game pace. Most of us are fully recovered now, but these injuries costed a couple of games, including conference games. The only way to get through tough times like these is to keep your head down and work. Whether you are working at practice, or working on rehab for your injuries, it is important to keep the hard work and the momentum going so that when game day comes you are focused and ready to go.”
Despite the challenges, the team is working hard for their upcoming games this week as they play host to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Knox College. This week, according to Riviere, the team will be “preparing for game day [by] watching our film from the previous games to visualize the things we did wrong as well as running tactics and drills that our coach wants us to implement based on the film he’s seen from other teams.”
On game day, according to Arivella, “The team does not necessarily have rituals before games, but we always like to get to the field earlier to find concentration and take care of our bodies before the game. We have a team meeting 15 minutes before warmup where we go through our game plan and the starting lineup and then walk out to the field fully concentrated on the opponent and on giving 100%.”
The team hopes to finish the year strong, according to Arivella. “We actually have four more games this season of which two are conference. At this point the main goal is to finish strong and go into the offseason with confidence about next year and the incoming class. We are not graduating many people and that is a relief because we can keep working with the guys we have and get better and better.”
Riviere says the team’s goals remain the same: “The last two weeks of the season, we’re planning on the same thing we’ve been planning all year: winning games. We don’t write ourselves out of games before they start, so we’re spending the last weeks of our season trying to get better so we can go out and end our season on a more positive note than we started.”
Even with all the struggles, the team bond is tight. Arivella adds, “This season, what is going well is definitely team attitude on and off the field and the fact that we feel united as one every time we practice or play. In a team sport it is fundamental to know that your teammates have your back and that you can rely on them in good and bad times. I believe we are a great group with lots of talent with margins of improvements, and I am sure that in the long run more results will come our way.”
The Vikings are also hoping to use this year as building block for next year. As Riviere says, “I think one of the things that is going well this season are that we are building a very committed, young team. Right now, we’re planning on returning 17 out of 20 players next year, and 14 the year after that. Those numbers along with recruiting will get us the numbers that we need to compete with the top teams in our conference.”
Lawrence closes out the home portion of its conference season on Saturday, Oct. 20. Look for them to finish strong and make a splash in their last few games.