On one side of the field sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Gentile stands on the balls of his feet with his eyes focused, waiting for his teammate to make a cross into the box. As the ball soars through the air, Gentile positions himself, then explodes with a jump, reaching over teammates as he grabs the ball and pulls it into his chest with a death grip.
In the opposite goal, freshman Kenny Chapman shuffles his feet in anticipation as a teammate dribbles toward the net. Chapman stares intently, then, in a flash, he’s diving to the ground, reaching his left arm as far as he can to attempt to block the shot. He is able to get enough of the ball to force it away from goal, making the save. Chapman is quickly back on his feet and shifting to the opposite post, ready for his next challenger.
The battle for the starting goalkeeper position on the men’s soccer team this season was intense during the preseason, with both players aware that one mistake could cost him a chance to play.
The Bombers’ keepers have been training extensively with Assistant Coach Mike Meskill this fall. Meskill said that Gentile will be looked upon as the starter, but that doesn’t mean Chapman won’t see playing time. Gentile got the starting nod in the team’s opening day loss to Brandeis University Saturday. However, Chapman saw action in the last 12 minutes of play.
“Jordan’s come in and proved that he’s going to be the starter, but Kenny is right on his heels,” Meskill said. “Jordan has to keep working in practice and perform in the games because if he doesn’t perform and makes mistakes in the game, that’s when the coaches are going to start to lose confidence in him.”
Meskill said Gentile and Chapman have similar playing styles, making it difficult to decide who will fill the starting role.
“It’s tough to actually compare them,” Meskill said. “It’s been a pretty even battle throughout preseason. Jordan has a leg up just because he has a year under his belt. He has the experience playing in the college game, which is very different than a high school game.”
Both Gentile and Chapman grew up in the Syracuse, N.Y., area and played for the same club team, Empire United Soccer Academy. Gentile was in an older age bracket, but he still had the chance to play and train with Chapman.
“We’ve scrimmaged against each other a lot,” Chapman said. “We’ve done some training sessions before, and I think coach said it best. We have pretty similar playing styles because we had the same mentors and coaches since we were really young. It’s kind of interesting to have the same fundamentals.”
Gentile and Chapman are friends off the field, but when practice starts it becomes a battleground.
“If [Chapman] makes a good save, I’m trying to get fired up to do it right back just to put it in his face again,” Gentile said. “It’s good competition. I like it.”
Gentile earned his first collegiate start last September against the SUNY-Oneonta Red Dragons. Gentile said he was nervous throughout the game and had to adjust to a faster pace. After playing more than 1,000 minutes and earning 11 starts last season, Gentile said he feels more confident between the posts.
“This year I’m trying to be faster paced, keeping the defense organized quicker and being short, concise and to the point so the D know exactly what they need to do,” Gentile said.
While Chapman will not be the early season starter for the Bombers, he said he is willing to accept whatever role he is given this season.
“One of my years in high school I sat the bench as the second-string, and I was actually fine with it,” Chapman said. “The repetition and stuff like that in practice is good. I’m always going to keep getting better and I’m going to keep trying to get time. But trying as hard as I can makes Jordan a better goalie and makes the team better.”