By Christina Easter
What a difference next season can make. Last season, the men’s soccer team returned to the field after a two year absence due to the pandemic that shut down all sports at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). With little time to prepare, this affected recruiting which affected team chemistry and adjustments due to unexpected injuries. But once this season started, the team kicked into high gear and didn’t lose a match in the first eight games.
“The big difference between last year and this is we had the chance to recruit,” said Devan Anderson, head men’s soccer coach. “The first year coming back, we had to work with the players we had but this year we got the players we wanted. Also, the second year players, after having a rough year last year, woke up the younger players and picked up the intensity.”
The team also benefited from the entire coaching staff which includes assistant coaches Michael Kassouf and Warren Simpson, who completed his senior year of college in Arkansas earlier this summer. Assistant coach Kassouf played for coach Anderson in Anderson’s first year as men’s soccer coach 27 years ago. Assistant coach Simpson, also played for coach Anderson and asked to join the coaching staff last season while watching the team struggle.
“It’s a big change going from 1-11 last season to our current record,” said Jack Waters, a second-year player. “It feels amazing and is a big motivator for the second year guys. I hope it’s an inspiration for next season too.”
Second year player, Stephen Simpson, said, “last year we didn’t have a good season, but to be 9-2, it is a great feeling.”
A major difference between college soccer and high school soccer is the speed of the game and the intensity. “The intensity is way up there and you have to work harder and be stronger,” said Alek Trmcic who is in his first year with the Tops. “You have to be faster on the ball and be ready for any challenge.”
First year player Mario DeSouza has learned a lot in his first year of competing on winning team. “I learned that I can endure more than I expected of himself and that I can push myself to be better, DeSouza said. “The hard work we have done and coming together as a team has contributed to the team’s winning record.”
Eamon DeLeon is also a freshman and is the goalkeeper and says, “the work on and off the field has contributed to our success this season.”
Coach Anderson’s expectations for the season was to win one more game than last season. Currently, the team is 10-2 after two consecutive losses. “Those were quality teams that we lost to,” said coach Anderson. “When you lose to them, it hurts but you can respect the loss. I think that loss is going to help us going forward.’
To keep the players focused, coach Anderson and his staff have the players practicing “intensity and pressure.”
The Tops are looking to finish the season strong by winning each of the remaining matches because only the top four teams will secure a spot in the Regional XII Playoff tournament. After the playoffs, is district play which will include the top teams from other regions.