Corps of freshmen try to help men’s soccer stabilize early on

The Yale men’s soccer coaches may have discovered the fountain of youth.

In a testament to a solid recruiting year for the Elisw (1-4-1), the men’s soccer team now includes seven freshmen, several of whom have already begun contributing on the field. Despite initial apprehension about the consequences of having such a young team, several of the rookies have stepped into starting roles and provided stability for a team that had major holes to fill at the season’s start.

From the beginning of the season, the coaches have eased neither the intensity of their practices nor their expectations of the young team — the same high standards have applied to everyone equally, the players said. Midfielder Eric Meyer ’11 credited the early season training for preparing the newcomers both physically and mentally for the increased speed and skill of college game.

“Right from the start, the coaches treated us just like the other guys and began integrating us into the system.” Meyer said. “We’re not too worried about class year here. Whoever’s best on the field will play that day.”

The college experience brings with it a continuous string of firsts for many of the freshmen, including midterms, laundry, complete freedom and, for many, their first time away from home. The additional pressure and commitment required to play for a college-level varsity sport can be daunting for anyone. Meyer credited the upperclassmen with doing a good job of integrating freshmen into team activities right from the start, easing the transition. Upperclassmen agreed that such integration has been a concrete goal.

“I think this year more so than last — my freshman year — the upperclassmen have been really adamant with hanging out with the freshmen,” Casey Logan ’10 said, “They made a conscious effort to include them. [We’re] more friends with them off the field, not just soccer teammates.”

The influx of youth on the team has struck a balance with existing veterans such as goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 and defender James Craig ’08. In the Elis’ recent match against No. 6 Boston College, for instance, Geiger led the way with a career-high 12 saves to secure a scoreless tie for the Bulldogs. Both Meyer and Brad Rose ’11 started against Boston College. Their performances against top teams foster a sense of confidence among the upperclassmen, Logan said.

“All the freshmen have been contributing a lot,” Logan said. “One or two are starting and they have been pretty effective coming off the bench. I just feel a lot more confident compared to last year. We had lots of issues last year with guys getting along with each other. This year everyone just gets along, and this translates well onto the field.”

The Bulldogs have struggled so far, but the team is working around a young core that stands to get better as the season progresses. Many of the games they lost came early in the season, when inexperience may have been a factor. But with solid performances in the past two games, the Bulldogs may have turned the corner; team members said they are now just working out the kinks in the system.

“The games started off not going our way,” Travis Chulick ’10 said. “But we tied our last game and won the game before, and we’re looking to build off that and carry it into the Ivy League season.”

The Elis will compete in their first Ivy League game this Saturday against Dartmouth. Jordan Raybould ’09 said the freshmen will get a chance to experience a higher intensity level once they enter Ancient Eight competition.

“The Ivy League is really competitive and physical,” Raybould said. “Every game is a rivalry game — you can’t take any plays or games off.”

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