By Jake Geiger, Staff Writer
Despite a 3-7-1 record in a pandemic-necessitated spring season, Xavier men’s soccer Head Coach Andy Fleming said the team still had a good year considering all the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
With last year’s spring season in the rearview, Xavier is looking forward to getting back out there in the fall.
“Our performances were good, our metrics were positive, we were disciplined and stayed the course, but our scores weren’t good,” Fleming said about the team last spring.
A couple of overtime losses for the Musketeers and a few positive COVID-19 cases were additional challenges to an already disjointed season. Hoping to overcome the spring’s disappointing box scores, Fleming described how he plans to move forward this season.
According to Fleming, Xavier won’t look back on last year and is instead focused on moving forward.
“The frustration and disappointment is still fresh in our mind and several players have not forgotten what happened, but we still do not want to revisit this too much,” Fleming added.
With minimal player burnout from the season, Fleming described the continuity he hopes to see this fall.
“We only lost 1 or 2 guys, (and) I think there is going to be a retention rate of 12 to 15 weeks from your last game rather than 9 months,” Fleming noted. “The key this summer is resting and freshness rather than pushing it and playing.”
Looking ahead to Xavier’s non-conference slate, Fleming immediately pointed to the Indiana Credit Union Classic at the beginning of the season.
“One of our games should be nationally televised and with Indiana, you have one of the Cadillacs in college soccer midwest and nationally,” Fleming said.
“We also play Ohio State and any game between us is a rivalry, so that should be a good test. Those are two Big Ten games…similar to a Big East atmosphere, so I think we will be ready to go after that and see what we’re capable of on the national level,” he noted.
Fleming also highlighted the Big East Conference and its depth this season.
“The conference is better than it’s ever been. Villanova is always a tough game. Seton Hall made the Final Eight last year out of nowhere and DePaul beat us for only the second time in school history,” Fleming said.
“I think they all are hard games and five flight trips makes it a lot of travel. Our margin is small and our guys were right there, so we just have to get those one-goal games our way. With our conference being a top two or three conference, getting a couple results in the Big East and being only one game over .500 makes you in NCAA tournament contention,” he added.
Fleming didn’t shy away from calling out players who he thinks can perform better this season than last.
“I think Matt Rosenberg was all-conference two years ago and he underperformed,” Fleming said about his grad student goalkeeper. “He has to overperform this year.”
“Felix Boe-Tangen and Karsen Henderlong were all-conference and they need to build on that. I also think other supplemental pieces like Jerome Jolly, Bryce Curran and Justus Kauppinen need to play high-end national recruits like they were. I…think we’re going to rely on Lotem Ben Dov who really emerged at the end of the season,” Fleming said.
With the amount of depth Fleming perceives on Xavier’s roster this year, he expects training camp to be competitive.
The coach was also excited about the addition of the Heidt Family Champions Center, saying it adds a whole new level of energy to the facility.
“Our home game routine, recruiting ability and professionalism is a difference-maker. I want to make sure it does not shape our guys, though, as it can soften your personalities a little bit and not lose our edge,” Fleming added.
Fleming also hopes that high vaccination rates in Ohio will lead to increased attendance at games throughout the season.
“Everyone wants fans. The right guys use it as a motivator,” he said. “We are going to try to use our crowd as the 12th man.”
Furthermore, Fleming plans to treat this season with a more professional approach. “You are getting paid to play and some are really being counted on,” he said. “I want them to give back for the program, the alumni and the tradition we have.”
The Musketeers’ open their season against Wright State on Aug. 12, and Fleming is looking to set a new tone for the season.
“Success can be uncomfortable or hard, but after coming off of last year, we need to set the tone.”