Last fall on a frigid afternoon in November the Springfield College men’s soccer team stood defeated on Hitchcock Field on the campus of Amherst College. The crowd in attendance erupted in cheers as the hometown Mammoths had downed the Pride in a shootout in the second round of NCAA Tournament play.
As the Amherst players raced around the field celebrating and shouting with jubilation, the Pride players stood in the frigid air with their heads bowed in a humbling defeat. A historic season had come to an end, and amidst the contingent of sombering players stood junior midfield/defensemen Brad Deckel.
Deckel had compiled a terrific junior season. He recorded eight goals and two assists for a total of 18 points on the season and he started in 17 of the 18 games he played in for the Pride.
The Lansdale, Penn. native was also honored for his work in the classroom as he was named a CoSIDA Academic All-American as a 4.0 GPA student-athlete. The All-American status was the first in program history for men’s soccer student-athletes at Springfield College.
Deckel also was recognized as the NEWMAC Defensive Player of the Week for the week of September 12th and was a backbone for the Pride’s success all season long.
Now, nearly 10 months after the loss to Amherst in the second round of tournament play, Deckel is five games into his senior season. He has come out of the gates on fire (2 goals, 1 assist, team high 5 points) and has helped the Pride to a 3-2 start.
Despite the success, things are much different now for the team. The Pride graduated nine seniors, lost other key contributors to transfer, and hired a new head coach.
The turnover, especially the number of players who graduated, is unlike anything Deckel has seen before. “We graduated our largest class since I’ve been here,” he said.
The amount of graduates was unusual, but the other turnover was not. Springfield also lost head coach Steffen Siebert over the summer after he accepted a job with U.S. Soccer at their National Training and Development Center in Kansas City, Mo. The Pride brought in Tommy Crabill as their new head coach.
“We typically have a large turnover number. We bring in normally, under Siebert, 13 or 14 freshman and after the season ended some people would quite, some people would get cut, some teammates would graduate,” Deckel said.
Now, in 2018-2019, six seniors remain. Deckel, Christian Schneider, and four others. They are: defenseman Ian Zacharewicz, defensemen Xavi Arroyo, midfielder Keon Haji, and goalkeeper Stewart Frank.
New head coach Tommy Crabill named Deckel, Frank, and Arroyo his captains, but all six seniors will need to contribute and lead for the Pride this year. Luckily, they have a tight bond.
“Our whole class, we haven’t really added any transfers to our specific class. So, we’ve been like the best of friends since freshman year and it’s easy to bond with the guys off the field,” Deckel said of his fellow seniors.
In addition to enjoying spending time together off the field, the group of six share a bond on the pitch too.
“We trust one another on the field. When someone criticizes the way you do something or tells you a better way to do it, we give the seniors that respect and attention they deserve,” he said.
Deckel is especially close with Schneider, his roommate. “Even if it’s Christian [Schneider] that’s telling me something I listen and I don’t get offended because it’s Christian and I trust him to say the right thing and I trust that he has the interest of the team at heart.”
As an upper statesmen on the team Deckel has a lot of experience with winning, and he wants to use his senior year to be a good role model to the team’s younger members. His experience in pressure games will help with that.
“I think it’s going to help me and the seniors because all of us have been in those type of games before where it’s a 1-0 game, it’s a race to the first goal, it’s who can just work harder and grind it out,” he said.
Deckel has been through it before with his experience in the NCAA tournament and his past three years where Pride men’s soccer has been so dominant.
“We’re used to that [pressure[, so we can mentor the young guys and help them keep their cool in those situations because the first thing you have to do is stay calm.”
The Pride’s back line of defense is still getting acclimated to playing with one another. Deckel has the pedigree and game reps to help out those guys this year and hopefully accelerate the progression of the defense coming together.
Deckel played left back for his first three seasons on Alden street, but now under the direction of Crabill he is making the transition to center mid. Despite the change he still can provide tuteleage to the other defenders on the roster.
“I give them tips every now and then. It’s hard to make them in the middle of the game, but once we get a break in the game or after the game or during practice, I’ll tell them,” Deckel said.
In addition to building chemistry on the field, the team is growing off it too.They are actively trying to keep everyone involved and do things together.
“Even with Siebert, we made it a point that the freshman aren’t alienated. We always invite the freshman to everything we do. Last night we were watching football, all the freshman came over to the townhouse just to hang out. Seniors, freshman, it doesn’t really matter with us. It’s just you’re a person, I’m going to get to know you, and it’s going to be fun.”
Deckel’s maturity and ability allows him to be a reliable option for his coach at all times. “Brad is an incredibly gifted athlete and soccer player who both is able to make players on both sides of the ball consistently,” Crabill said of his senior captain.
The coach sees his captain as very versatile, and able to bounce back from any circumstances.
“He can battle with bigger players, he has the agility to keep up with and go by smaller, quicker players. The team looks to him to compete through every play, and even when the opponent gets the better of him in one moment, he is tough enough mentally to come back and win the next play. He’s a leader, and a pleasure to work with.”
Five games in the Pride have already been tested, facing two ranked opponents, but regardless of wins or losses Deckel is looking to leave a mark on the team for years to come.
“A goal for myself would be more team oriented. I know this is my last year, and I know this is a year in transition It’s my senior year, but it’s not necessarily about me and the seniors,” he said.
For Deckel, his impact as a leader, is potentially more of a priority than his impact as a player on the field.
“It’s about trying to make it as good of a time and as welcoming for the freshman as I can. So, I’m always there for them. I try to help them on the field, I’m there for them off the field. It’s more about I want to help them and help this culture that we built over the past three years move forward.”