By Ian Jackson, Staff Reporter
With 19 returning players and a hard working coach in Graham Brennan, the 2016 men’s soccer team is ready to defend their 2015 conference crown.
The team went undefeated in conference play last season, winning the conference tournament for the first time in university history. But, now it is time to look ahead at the task at hand. The club plans on building off of their tremendous season last year through their experience. With their eyes set on building off of what was a historic season for the Lakers, they have continued their winning ways.
And so far, they are off to a great start with a record of 3-0-1.
“The benefit of our players being from Chicago is that they are constantly playing outside competition in different men’s leagues to keep them in shape and to keep them at a high level from spring to summer to get them ready heading back into the fall semester,” Brennan said, keying in on what in the offseason led to the Laker’s solid start this year.
During this start, a lot have players have stepped up their intensity of play.
“We have 28 guys on the team and we are playing around 18 to 28 guys in a game and there have been a couple of guys who normally play at a high level,” Brennan said.
One player who has stepped up is senior midfielder Cristhian Jimenez. He has been playing at a very high level for the first three games against tough competition.
Coach Brennan has always looked to improve his team’s style of play and one thing that he emphasized on was his defensive pressure.
“We want to restrict what other teams want to do defensively as much as we can so we have been coming day one of this season and now we are in week four and we have been pushing that game plan and that has been leading to disrupting their momentum and we are starting to win the ball more on their end and get on goal quicker,” Brennan said.
Their greatest challenge came on Labor Day against Grace College. Though a one goal lead was squandered with just 29 seconds left in the game, the Lakers were able to hold on in both overtimes to secure a tie.
“Last year we met them at a neutral site at a tournament and now this year it is at their home venue, so they are going to be excited to play us. So if we come in and play with our style, our tempo and give our full effort, we will have a good chance to win and that is all we could ask for heading into a game like that,” Brennan said.