Pride men’s soccer is in the midst of an undefeated season. They’ve played 14 games to date and have compiled 13 wins, one tie, and zero losses. From the outside, being undefeated is great.
Internally, the added pressure that comes with being undefeated can be crushing. Every night opponent’s are going to be bringing their ‘A’ game knowing this is their chance to knock off the undefeated.
Externally, Springfield shows no signs of nerves. Their practices are loose and the players are just having fun. They’ve built a good balance of working hard while also staying relaxed and having a good time.
They’re doing their best to not think about the added pressure and just take things one day at a time, and one game at a time.
Head coach Steffen Siebert has worked hard to build this team into what they have become. He maintains that the key is to focus on the next game, not the tournament that is still a week away.
“For us right now we don’t even think about the tournament. All of the boys and myself are super, super focused on the next game and that’s all we’re worried about right now.”
He echoed the same idea when talking about the pressure of being undefeated. “We’re just looking game to game. We want to stay undefeated for the next game, that’s really our motto,” said Siebert. “Not really thinking about staying undefeated because you can’t buy or do anything from that. So we really just want to win the next game and get into the conference tournament. We want to win that before we look anywhere else.”
Siebert was very adamant that their is no additional pressure. The season is a marathon, not a race, and their is no need to look ahead prematurely. He wants his team in the now and not worrying about their record.
Siebert is the leader and what he says his players should follow. The majority of the player’s said they are not feeling the pressure that follows the record they’ve built.
Ian Zacharewicz, a junior defender, said the record is something the team has not even discussed.
“I don’t think we even think about it. We just keep going into every game with the same mindset of ‘get the win’. We just want the win, we don’t think about being undefeated, we never even talked about it once.”
It might be difficult to believe that the team hasn’t at least talked about their record. It is unavoidable really when a team accomplishes everything that they have.
Keon Haji was a bit more open in talking about the record.
“It’s kind of a win-lose for us because I think there is a little bit of pressure. If we win that’s an advantage, but also if we lost it kind of takes away the pressure a little bit.”
The pressure is real. Everything that happens to Springfield from now on is a first. A loss would be their first, allowing a goal would be the first in a month, not shutting out an opponent would be the first time that’s happened in seven games.
The important part for the team is blocking out the noise and focusing on themselves and what they can control. It is well known that Springfield has a great defense, but their offense is putting up nearly three goals a game too.
Senior Cam Powell thinks that could be dangerous come tournament time, “It’s pretty clear that we have a lot of firepower offensively. A lot of talent, speed, strength all around and that’s why it’s been really great for us. To have so many different people getting points for us and getting goals and assists makes us really hard to defend.”
When pressure mounts, the safest bet is to rely on the basics and what a team does best. It just so happens that the Pride play both sides of the ball well.
They may say they are not affected by being undefeated, but that cloud is hanging over their heads pushing towards the NEWMAC tournament. Right now, the attitude is to block out the noise and take things one day at a time.
Haji spoke for the whole team at the end of his interview when he smiled and said, “We know that will be ready for the conference tournament. That’s really what our goal is right now. That’s what’s most important for us because that’s how we get into NCAAs.”
One day at a time. However, he spoke for everyone in saying that although the excitement for the tournament is building, the Pride still have unfinished business to take care of.