SPRINGFIELD – Twelve games into the season, the Springfield College men’s soccer team is sitting at 9-3, and when looking over the season statistics the team’s top three point leaders on the year have 12, eight and eight points, respectively.
Senior Brad Deckel, who leads the team with 12 points (five goals, two assists), and senior Christian Schneider, who is tied for second on the team with his eight points (three goals, two assists) are both familiar faces who have been contributors to the Pride for a long time.
However, tied for second on the team in points is a newcomer, with an identical goal and assist total on the year to Schneider. Andrew Ma has made his presence felt this season with his performance on the pitch.
Ma is only a freshman at Springfield, so he is not as familiar in the scoring book as Deckel and Schneider, who have been around three years each now, but still Ma has made himself known quickly on Alden street due to his strong play.
All the way back in August, Ma burst onto the scene with a three-point performance against Potsdam at the Best Western Plus Cardinal Classic in Springfield’s season opener. During the game he assisted Deckel for the Pride’s first goal of the season, and then later he added a goal of his own, a bicycle kick no less, to get his first career goal.
For Ma, it did not take him long to acclimate to his team.
“It really didn’t take that long. It took maybe about a week or two,” he said. “The seniors really helped me transition into this whole college playing style a lot quicker.”
Ma is from Upper Saddle River, New Jersey and although he stands only 5’ 9” tall, his quickness has been his greatest asset for him on the field at the collegiate level.
“I definitely feel like my speed and my technical ability helps me the most on the field,” he said.
Ma reads the game well, and he is cognizant of his own abilities, which usually leads to him being a step ahead of the opposition.
“I know I won’t be able to body guys off the ball mostly, or win headers. I really try to use my soccer knowledge to my advantage over other players,” he said.
Ma has earned the trust of his head coach, Tommy Crabill, and has earned himself substantial playing time this year. “Andrew is very technical, and he reads the game very well. Like a lot of our players, he comes from playing at a very high level before getting to college, so he’s used to the speed of play being fast,” Crabill said.
Ma’s quickness has allowed him to thrive in his freshman campaign. “Speed and change of pace is really important. Especially on our field, the ball moves so quickly that players that can really get into their sprint in really tight spaces are really, really effective,” Crabill said.
Ma, like some of his fellow teammates, is one of those guys that can accelerate quickly and shine in tight spots.
“Guys that are very, very quick and shifty in two to five yard spaces can have a lot of success, he’s one of those guys. When we get into those really dangerous areas, he can move by people quickly and we definitely want to find ways to bring it into the game,” Crabill said.
So far, so good. After his initial outburst in the season opener, Ma went quiet in the scoring department, but he broke out in a big way against Clark University on September 29, scoring two goals in the win.
Ma feels comfortable in Crabill’s system, and that comfort level has helped him to sustained success.
“Coach gives me directions like ‘try to go end line if I can,’ but if that doesn’t work I’ll cut in, or try to find a cross pass to Christian (Schneider),” he said.
Crabill allows his players freedom to be innovative, and it has brought out the best in the freshman. “It’s not necessarily super strict on what I have to do, but it’s more of a guideline, rather than a set of instructions like do this or else you won’t play,” Ma said.
The results have pleased Crabill thus far. “There’s plenty of growth for him, he’s very quick and [has] good control of the ball and he reads the game well. He’s usually thinking ahead of other players on the opposition, and I’m really happy that he’s been able to find success in the way that he has. We’ve obviously leaned on him recently for some really important production, so it’s good to see,” Crabill said.
For Ma, he just wants to keep producing in any way he can for his team.“I want to help the team win,” he said. “Whether it’s an assist, or a goal, or even creating the play from the start. I don’t necessarily think about personal goals, it’s kind of just do whatever it takes to win.”
Photo courtesy of Springfield Athletics