New coach, new players, same goals
By Sara Ridgway | Published Sept. 27, 2017
The Kean University men’s soccer team opens the 2017 season with a record of 4-3-1, under newly named head coach Peter-John Falloon.
For the past nine seasons, Falloon coached at Division II Bloomfield University. He was a goalie for the Kean men’s soccer team and graduated after the fall semester in 2005. As per the Kean University Athletics website, in the 38 games he played he collected 149 saves.
The preseason poll ranked Kean as seventh in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) in August of 2017. The team closed the 2016 season with an appearance in the first round of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Tournament when they received an at large bid unexpectedly a week after thinking their season was over.
Junior midfielder Erick Reyes said that after reaching the NCAA Tournament the team knew they were moving in the right direction for the future of the program. Although they lost in the first round, the experience gave many of the players a taste of what the National Tournament is all about. “
[It] starts with the NJAC,” Reyes said, “we also have very high expectations for our conference; every game is a dog fight. But that takes patience [and] grinding out results one game at a time.”
Junior goalie Bryce Horn added that after ending seventh in the conference last season, the goal for 2017 is to land within the top three, as well as giving up the least amount of goals in the conference.
“We have the talent to win the NJAC, but it’s all on us,” Horn said,” we need to work for it and it will come.”
The team welcomes twelve freshmen to its roster this season, some of which were called upon when senior players were forced to be out on injury during the early games of the season. Senior midfielder Nicholas Sica added that the freshmen and underclassmen are important components of the team this year.
“A lot of them have been handed important roles in the team and are expected to step up and fill in the roles of the guys who graduated,” Sica said. “So far they are adapting well and I’m looking forward to them progressing throughout a long season.”
Freshman back Russell Hoffer who recently made his transition from high school to college soccer notices standout differences between the two, including the gap in skill level and athleticism there is.
“Everyone on the field is noticeable quicker, faster and stronger,” Hoffer said. “In high school soccer there is always a weak link teams try to expose but in college, everyone is more or less on the same level.”
He also added that in college, the players exhibit more passion and will to win on the field as opposed to during high school games.
Hoffer has started and played in all seven games so far this season and contributed a goal in overtime to lead the Cougars to a 2-1 win over the University of Southern Maine on Sept. 9.
Although the freshmen are new to the program, the upperclassmen have been helpful in their process of becoming a part of the new program, specifically on the field.
“Playing with new players is hard enough, but their constant reminders of where to be on the field, where to pass and so on, make the game a lot easier,” Hoffer said.
Horn describes this season as being very different from past seasons due to the graduating of 13 seniors and the adjustment to having a new coach.
“We have a very young but very talented team this year and it is taking a little longer than usual to get the chemistry flowing with everyone being new to one another,” Horn said.
Reyes agrees that although the chemistry of the team has changed, it has changed in a positive manner.
“It is almost as if the underclassmen of the last two years have carried the torch and spread the spirit of the team to the newer guys,” Reyes said. “We can all joke around and have fun, but when it comes to training and game day, it’s nothing but business.”
Acclimating to a new coach can be difficult, but Horn has experienced this three times in his three seasons in the program. “
So I guess you could say that I am used to it, but you really never get used to it,” Horn said. “One of the biggest affects it has on the team is that the new coach doesn’t know as much about the team and the players that he is now coaching. Therefore, it takes some time for him to see what is best for the team and time is something we didn’t have a lot of before the season [started].”
In the past three seasons, Sica has also had three different coaches, being a transfer student from Long Island University – Brooklyn and then playing for Kean his junior and senior year.
“Being given a leadership role with each coach, getting comfortable, then it changes again; it definitely is a stressful process but an important part is to buy into the new coaches philosophies as quick as possible,” Sica said. “If the team buys in and works relentlessly to blend to the changes, then the team should just focus on performing and getting results.”
The team’s next home game is Sept. 30 against conference rival Rowan University at 1 p.m.
“We are taking everyday one day at a time,” Sica said. “With such a new team we are still learning from one another and looking for a positive result each time we step on the pitch. Putting all our energy and focus on each separate team until the day we are on the road to another first round game in the NCAA’s.”