Soccer practice began last week, and new men’s soccer coach Dustin Wise got to see his team in action for the first time. Overall, he’s pleased with how the team performed, but he knows there’s room for improvement, and he’s expecting to see gains, especially in the midfield and attack, as players in those units eventually “click” over time.
We recently caught up with Coach Wise via email about that pivotal first week of practice…
CS: How is the team looking so far?
DW: The team has come a long way in such a short amount of time. We still have a lot of work that needs to be done, but it's a long season and I truly do believe we will get there. Our biggest issue right now is dealing with a few injuries that has set us back a bit from where I would like to be at this time.
CS: How are all the pieces coming together per each position?
DW: Our goalkeepers have surprised me. We have Artie Millner, who is a transfer from Shippensburg University where he was actually a wrestler, so he has been away from soccer for a few years. We also have Cole Roberts, who played lacrosse in high school but was never a soccer player. Both have been doing a great job adapting to what I'm looking for in my goalkeepers and I'm not as concerned as one may think when you look at the “lack of experience” in the net.
I think our back four defensively are definitely the strongest unit on the roster right now, the most experienced portion of the lineup with seniors Todd Berry and Max Thorpe leading the way. Freshman Trenton Bradley also has been a standout and should see a lot of minutes at center back and Derrick Miller has been a great asset on the left side.
When you look at our midfield and attack, there's definite room to grow but I think the biggest issue holding these positions back is the fact that they don't have the experience playing together yet. It may take a few more weeks before they're fully clicking but they're definitely coming together! Not to mention that a few of our fall term additions in October will add to the talent level in these positions.
CS: How has it been practicing in the heat?
DW: Dealing with the heat is always an issue, as you can imagine. A little extra time spent taking water breaks and sitting in the shade for instruction rather than just hitting it on the field, but you adapt to what you can't control and control what you can control.
CS: You have your first game next week. What will you be working on this week?
DW: This week is really all about diving into the style of play. Last week was a bit of fitness work and knocking the rust off, but now is when we start diving more and more into how I'm looking for them to play and hopefully it translates to some exciting soccer this fall!
CS: Anything else you would like to add?
DW: With just five returning players from last season and only a few of the freshmen being guys that I personally recruited to bring in, I wasn't really sure what to expect talent wise. These young men have worked hard each day to strive and be better. Our first day, (Monday Aug 12) was a bit rough due to the weather and the guys not really being at the fitness levels I would like them to be, but I felt that the rest of the week went much better. Wednesday was the best practice that we have had so far.
The Knights open their season at Penn State Mont Alto on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 4 p.m. Prior to that, they will scrimmage Wilson College in an away contest on Monday, Aug. 26, at 4:30 p.m.