It seems to be happening all over again. The men’s soccer team can’t ignore the similarities between last season and this season: A considerable winning streak and sporadic national ranking, although the team went as high as No. 7 in the country. Strangely, almost a year to the day since a game against Florida Atlantic University was canceled, the same thing happened Tuesday night.
Coach George Kiefer can’t see that much of a comparison, though.
“We got off to a tough start (this year),” said Kiefer, who is in his fourth season as coach. “We’ve gotten better each week, when last year we came out of the gate and won a lot.”
They garnered a following last year thanks to yours truly and made waves in their last year in
Conference USA only to get pulled into the undertow of the first round of the conference tournament: a 2-0 loss to St. Louis.
“We were really on the radar screen last year,” Kiefer said. “Made a blip. Then those three games where we lost by one goal was really our downfall, it seems.”
So now there’s nothing about men’s soccer. They do it quietly and quickly and have dished out an undefeated record (5-0) in the Red Division of the Big East.
It’s coming to a point where Kiefer is enjoying no coverage at all.
“I don’t mind not being on the radar screen,” he said.
Makes you wonder if that’s what it takes to go beyond the first round of the postseason. But if the Bulls keep on this pace at least they’ll have a bye week after winning top seed in the tournament.
As for last year, Kiefer can’t pinpoint where exactly everything went wrong. Whether it was pulling Dane Brenner on a nine-game unbeaten streak and four straight shutouts for then-freshman Freddy Hall, or letting the high rankings get to the players’ heads, or not being able to ride momentum like a straight and steady monorail, Kiefer forgot about it and moved on.
More or less, it changed him. Not only did his players mature, he did as well.
“After Cincinnati,” Kiefer said, “we didn’t use that momentum. Now in the Big East, every team is a challenge. I’m gun shy from last season now.”
That’s too bad, because with an arsenal that includes Simon Schoendorf (two goals, one assist), Rodrigo Hidalgo (two goals, eight assists), Jordan Seabrook (seven goals, four assists), Sammy Castellanos (three goals), Joris Claessens (three goals), Kris Raad (one goal, five assists) and Dane Brenner (32 saves, two shutouts and 1.54 goals against average), why is Kiefer embarrassed to use a piece or two?
Is he going to blush when St. John’s comes to town Oct. 15?
Are they going to hide under the bed when the Bulls travel to Rutgers on Oct. 22?
Of course not.
They shouldn’t have to, and while those two teams were picked to finish ahead in the rankings – with the Red Storm and the Scarlet Knights finishing first and second, respectively – in the Red Division, they better not.
All that red shouldn’t stop the Bulls.
Even with Hunter West nursing an injury, this team wants more than what it had a taste of in the past.
Deeper into the tournament.
A conference championship ring.
They begged for one, had their shots – metaphorically and literally – and failed.
So with the ease of a whisper, and the soft touch of a tiptoe into the goal box, the Bulls want to do it without attention.
They don’t want predictions. They make sure they look at every team on the way.
“I’m not even looking at game to game anymore,” Kiefer said. “I’m worried more about every day to day. Every training to training. Nothing is easy in the Big East. We know that.”
Polls? Rankings? Injuries?
Plenty of questions, plenty of answers. Coach Kiefer has them.
Plus, he won’t be bashful about his weapons come November.
So he’s not shy.
He just wants to leave the radars to the meteorologists.