Why Men’s Soccer is the number one team on campus
The best word to use to describe the 2015 Men’s Soccer team is “talented.” This team is chalked full of more talent than arguably any soccer team within the past five seasons. And even if a student had not been to a game this season, they could look at the numbers to see just how good this team is. When looking at the top of the statistical list in the SoCon (Southern Conference), players on the university’s soccer team make up close to half of the list. Five of the ten players that lead the SoCon in points play for the Spartans. This includes senior Jacques Francois topping the list with 20 points, 7 more than the next closest athlete. Freshmen standouts Matteo Busio and Leeroy Maguraushe are third and fourth in the Conference with a respected thirteen and ten points, while senior Ben Burdon and freshman Mat Mattis round up the top ten with nine and seven points. All five players are also in the top ten in goals and points per game.
With their high totals of points, Coach Maulin’s squad also has been able to beautifully set-up each other. Looking at the conference’s assist and assist per match leaders, Jacques Francois pulls a Nate Archibald by once again topping another list. And while Leeroy Maguraushe and Matteo Busio’s name can be found, instead of Mattis and Burdon, three new names pop up in the top ten. Right behind Francois is junior Damieon Thomas. Also on the list is senior Noah DeAngelo and junior Chandler Chappell.
Defensively, freshman Jon Mulligan, who was on the bench at the beginning of the year and has only seven games started under his belt, has already established himself as one of the Conference’s top goalkeepers. Mulligan has been able to record the second most shutouts with four and is right at the top of the list in save percentage (.852) and average goals scored against (0.54). This team is stacked from top to bottom with the some of the best players in the entire Conference. Despite being blessed with so much talent, Coach Justin Maullin has allowed the talent to flourish while playing in his system.
The team did hit a rough patch at the end of September, where they had a stretch of four defeats out of six matches. However, once the team opened up with their conference schedule, there has not being a better team on campus. With a 1-1 tie on Halloween night at East Tennessee State, the Men’s Soccer team clinched the top seed for the SoCon tournament. For the past month, the team have experienced defeat only once while compiling a 5-1-3 record and a first round postseason bye.
You really can not go wrong on both these teams. Both Men’s Soccer and Volleyball have played at a level beyond any other sport on campus. Still, choosing between going the farthest in their playoffs, it would be the soccer match. In the multiple matches I have watched this year, the soccer team has never been overwhelmed by the competition they are facing. The best example of this comes in a tie actually. In their second match against the Furman Paladins, who at the time was the top team in the Conference, the Spartans arguably, not even hitting their stride, had their most complete game on the year. In the match, the UNCG faithful was rewarded with one of the most exciting games played this year. Both teams, seemingly equal, spent all 90 minutes of regulation time and both overtime periods in a full speed, physical battle around the field. If not for an amazing save from the Paladins’ goalkeeper, Sven Lissek, the night would have ended with a Spartan victory.
This year, the team has established themselves as the best team on campus for the fall. Still, the ceiling has yet to be reached for this team’s future. A team with a dozen freshmen, many of whom have already shown to be stars in the conference, and are losing only five seniors, the Men’s Soccer team will be one of the top teams on campus for the next couple years. Right now though, with the top soccer player in the SoCon in Jacques Francois and the number one seed in the conference, they are not “one of the top teams,” on campus, they are the top team.
Why Volleyball is the best team on campus
In my three-and-a-half years as a UNCG student, the opportunities to seen a campus sport take the Southern Conference (SoCon) title have been all but slim. However, in my final semester here on campus, there are two specific teams which have the talent to win their conference. And while Coach Maulin has done a tremendous job in preparing the Men’s Soccer team this season, I believe it is Coach Carlin’s Volleyball team which will have the best shot at winning a conference tournament.
Currently 19-8, one of the reasons why I think the Volleyball team can make a deep run in the SoCon postseason is in part due to their recent run of strong play. Though the team still has a long way to go until November 21 when the tournament begins, they are currently winners of their last nine matches. And with these victories, each have been against SoCon opponents. And with these nine victories, only two of the wins saw the matches go to the final and fifth set. So for seven wins, the Volleyball has won either 3-0 or 3-1, completely dominating their competition. And with this impressive win streak, the Spartans defeated conference powerhouse and the current number one seed in the SoCon, Chattanooga.
While the direction a team is playing is important as they prepare for the postseason, this is not the only reason why the Volleyball has a chance to win the SoCon. With a quick glance at the roster and seeing how the players on the team have performed, Coach Carlin has been able to draw the best out of each player this season. Sophomore Ashley Muench has thrived in her second year playing college volleyball is among the conference leaders in kills. In her final season, Katherine Santiago again has had a stellar season for the Blue and Gold. One of the leaders of the team and arguably the most consistent player on the team, as seen by her dig numbers since her Sophomore year, Santiago has the highest average for digs per set in the SoCon and has the second most among members of the conference. With veterans such as Santiago, Julia Westerbur and Jessica Brezwyn along with well-executed play by freshman Allison Penner and redshirt freshman Jasmine Jones, this is a strong unit which is currently playing at their best.
And with this unit, similar to the idea of momentum, the core of this team has been here before. Last season, with a new coach, the Volleyball team went 20-11 in overall record with a 11-5 conference record. However, after a disappointing second round exit on their home gym in the SoCon tournament a year ago, there is motivation to avenge last year’s results. This is a team which wants to be playing in the later rounds of the SoCon tournament.
Also, in regards to the Men’s Soccer team, while both tournaments are structured in single-elimination, it is more difficult predicting a soccer match than a volleyball match. Like say the MLB, NBA and NHL playoffs, you have to win multiple games to advance to the next round. Though in the volleyball tournament there is only one game to play, a team must win three out of five of those games for victory. This is why upsets are a rarity in those professional sports. While a team may have a bad game, it would be odd watching good team struggle repeatedly. And this is why I think, even both tasks are extremely difficult, it is easier to win a best three out of five than just one game.
With soccer by comparison, you only have one game. The Men’s Soccer team has rightfully deserved a spot atop the SoCon standings with a 6-1-3 conference record. But, in soccer, you have one game only. This means, as like the NFL playoffs, if you don’t have your best stuff one day, you lose and that’s it. I am extremely excited as both teams will be playing in their postseasons coming up. The Men’s will play in the semifinals after earning a bye on November 13. The Volleyball tournament begins in the SoCon on November 21. A win for both teams in the tournament would be a wonderful present for the campus and community. And for all the seniors, even those sport editors, it would be nice to see a campus team find postseason success.