Men’s soccer coach hopes players have learned lessons
Coming off a heartbreaking loss in the 2010 Heart of America Athletic Conference playoffs, the Baker University men’s soccer team has all the pieces in place for a special season.
With nine returning starters, including eight juniors, the Wildcats know it’s a season of no excuses.
“The lessons we’ve learned over the past year or so will be huge,” Wildcat head coach Nate Houser said. “We had guys win a PDL Championship in Canada this past summer. Nick Aguilar and Mike Sheridan went up there and had some success along with Tom Lowndes. I just think we’ve grown into a team that is needing to yield some results. Odaine Sinclair transitioned into target last season, but now it’s time to score some goals. If we can stay focused on what we need to do, not what anyone else has to do, this team can be very special.”
Seniors Steven Stewart (Overland Park, Kan.) and Lowndes (Cardiff, Wales) will provide the Wildcats with an offensive spark at the forward and midfield positions. Lowndes led the team in 2010 with five goals, while Stewart led the squad with five assists.
Juniors will be main contributors to the Wildcats. Ethan Bauer (Olathe, Kan.), Nick Aguilar (Olathe, Kan.), Sinclair (Kingston, Jamaica), and Laeth Hamil (Olathe, Kan.) will be among key returning veterans.
With the loss of four-year starter Alex Burton in goal, Houser will look to Michael Sheridan to step up in his place. Sheridan played in eight games in 2010, posting a 3-2-0 record with 1.69 goals against average.
Houser also believes the 2010 run the Baker women’s team had in the NAIA playoffs could serve as motivation for the men.
“I think the guys looked at the women and what they did and asked themselves, ‘What aren’t we doing?’ Because those guys are so talented,” Houser added. “Those women were led by a group of juniors and seniors; the same goes for our men this year. I think they realized talent doesn’t always win you games. Hard work, determination, mental strength and being prepared are what win games. I think the guys will have that maturation process this year.”
2011 will mark the three-year anniversary of the men’s team advancing to the NAIA Sweet 16 in Fresno, Calif. Houser believes the program as a whole has benefited from the recent playoff appearances from both the men and women.
“The girls drove out to California three years ago to watch the guys in the Sweet 16,” Houser said. “We had some of the guys drive to Alabama last year, and I think when you see what some of them saw, it helps to mentally prepare, never take no for an answer, and no excuses.”
The Wildcats open their season on Aug. 26 at Westminster College (Utah) in Salt Lake City. The Cats‘ open at home against Columbia College at 5 p.m. on Sept. 3.