The men’s soccer team has begun the 2015 season with a lackluster start, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. However, the players and the coaching staff would say they are right where they want to be.
The South Hill squad, currently at 1–3–1, has a 1.60 goal scoring percentage to start the season.
However, head coach Patrick Ouckama said the team is learning from its mistakes and moving forward after each game.
“Every coach would want to see more goals than what we’re putting up,” he said. “That being said, the timing of our pattern plays are getting better by the day. Guys are looking for the right spots, the right runs, so it’s definitely improving.”
The Bombers have been forced to hit the ground running with a brutal nonconference schedule to open the season. Playing then–nationally ranked SUNY Cortland and SUNY Oneonta, along with games against schools such as Marywood University and Medaille College, has caused the Bombers to go up against some strong defenses.
Junior forward Sam Boylan described the Bomber offense as not where it wants to be to start the season, but reiterated from its first win Sept. 19 that things will come together with time.
“The offense has been static and haven’t been scoring as much as we wanted,” Boylan said. “But we have guys flying forward ready to contribute.”
Junior midfielder Scott Halpern, who has one of the Bombers’ eight goals this season, said what they have done so far this season does not depict what the team hopes the final results will be.
“That’s what comes with playing great teams so early in the season,” Halpern said. “Obviously the offense isn’t going to be clicking from day one, but we see some improvement, and things are starting to shape up.”
The Bombers were in a similar situation in the 2014 campaign. Last year, the Bombers began with a 0–2–1 start, with their first win not coming until their first conference game, a 3–1 victory over Alfred University.
Despite this, when conference play began, the Bombers made it all the way to Empire 8 Championships against Stevens Institute of Technology.
Similar to last year, the first game the Blue and Gold won this season came in conference play against Utica College on Sept. 19.
Halpern said the start of conference play raises the stakes for the Bombers to win.
“Conference play is conference play,” he said. “It’s a must–win situation from here on out. Sure, we’re going to make mistakes, but we have emphasized as a team that they definitely need to be limited.”
Halpern also said the immediacy is crucial for the Bombers because everything will begin to click consistently by the time they reach the midway point of the season.
So far this season, the Bombers have collected 59 shots, while their opponents have combined for a total of 83. They are also averaging five fewer shots per game compared to their opponents.
Ouckama said their early offensive struggles have been a mixture of mental and on-the-field challenges, but there are things the team can overcome.
“We have a lot of new guys and some freshmen that are getting some significant playing time right now,” he said. “The guys are still learning how to play with each other, so you may not get the results you want right away.”
The Bombers will have to learn pretty quick as they get further into their slate, with five nonconference games, along with six conference games coming up that includes a game against nationally ranked Stevens Institute of Technology.
Because the upcoming lineup will have an impact on where the team ranks in the standings, both in the conference and nationally, Halpern said the team can do nothing more than come out strong in its future contests.
Halpern said he believes there is a difference in the way the team plays in conference games compared to nonconference games, but reiterated that all games are crucial.
“The emphasis on a conference game is different than a nonconference game,” he said. “The beginning of the season nonconference games are just a test. When we play conference, it’s do or die.”