By Daniel Priest
The Springfield College men’s soccer program has been on a historic, dominant run over the past three seasons. Back in 2015 they won 16 games and captured an ECAC New England Championship; in 2016 they won 18 games and and made the NCAA Tournament; then in 2017 they racked up 15 more wins and won the first NCAA Tournament game in program history.
Now in 2018 the Pride have a new coach, they have lost nine seniors, they’ve lost multiple other players to transfer and the team is undergoing a change in philosophy and direction. Still, there’s that old saying “the more things, the more they stay the same.” That could be the way to describe this year’s team.
Head coach Tommy Crabill may be in his first role as the lead guy, but he brings a bevy of experience with him to Alden Street. Crabill has made stops at Williams College, St. Lawrence University, Earlham College, Baldwin Wallace University and Alma College.
Nearly everywhere Crabill has gone the teams have been successful. Not just successful regular season wise, but in the postseason too. Crabill played his own college ball at Ohio Wesleyan and went to a Final Four in 2006. He has big game experience and pedigree.
After the coach, the other big change is in personnel. Springfield will be retooling a defense that was dominant last year and kept them in a lot of games. Harry Davis and Cam Powell, two key cogs in last year’s defense, have now graduated.
The key for Springfield will be getting production out of the young guys, who need to step up if they want to have another dominant season that plays into tournament time.
The offense has more returnees who have seen a lot of playing time in past seasons, but they too will need to retool on the fly and try to reinvent themselves. This is a transition year for the team, but by no means is it a rebuilding year.
Men’s soccer is a program that has demanded respect in past years and that isn’t changing in 2018. A new coach and some new players, but still an expectation of success surrounds the team this season.
The biggest key will be developing team chemistry quickly and getting acclimated to play with one another.
Players to watch
With this roster, there is no one player to pin down as a player to watch for the Pride. Instead, the six seniors on the roster will all be key members of the team and big contributors.
Crabill is expecting big things from his crew. “Brad (Deckel), Xavi Arroyo, and Stew Frank. We’re going to lean on those guys quite a bit, but I think the entire senior class has been fantastic. I’ll take any excuse I have to speak about them.”
Brad Deckel is one of the Springfield’s three captains and he will be a leader for the team on and off the field. Deckel has started at least 17 games in all three of his seasons with the Pride and last year he recorded eight goals and two assists while achieving Academic All-American status with a 4.0 GPA.
Deckel will look to build on his 18 points last season and help aid the Pride in their transition with all the new players and coaches. Barring injuries or other complications, he will be a key cog for Springfield all year.
Ian Zacharewicz will see a substantial increase in playing time for the Pride this season. After starting in only one game last year and appearing in just four, the senior defensemen should absorb a much larger role this year.
Xavi Arroyo is arguably the most accomplished member of Springfield’s roster. Last season, he earned his second career NEWMAC All-Conference selection and his first ever first-team selection.
Arroyo will be the backbone of the Springfield defense as one of the key returning members from the backline. Look for him to keep the team in composure and be an on field leader.
Keon Haji is one of the expected major contributors to the Pride this season, but he is on the mend nursing a torn meniscus. Haji has missed the first five games of the season and is not expected back until late September to early October. Still, expect him to play a big role once he returns.
Christian Schneider is one of the Pride’s most productive players with 17 career goals and 25 assists. Last season he was a NEWMAC First-Team All-Conference selection as well as New England Soccer Journal’s “Best XI” player.
Schneider, a forward, will be a key part of the retooling the offense. The team will need him to both generate offense and capitalize on scoring chances.
Stewart Frank is the team’s goalkeeper for the 2018 season. Frank comes with a load of experience after starting 17 games last season. The senior has 69 career saves versus only 13 goals allowed, good for an average of 0.51 goals allowed per game.
This season will be an interesting one for Springfield. Considering the amount of success the team has had the past three years, this is the most uncertainty surrounding them heading into a season in quite some time.
Crabill cited in preseason that it will take the team some time to adjust and get used to playing with one another under the direction of a new coaching staff.
Through five games, the returns for the club have been positive. Springfield sits at 3-2 with their only losses coming against ranked opponents. The team fell to No. 4 Brandeis, 2-0, and No. 15 Stevens, 2-1.
The Pride’s defense has been stellar, allowing only five goals in as many games, but the offense has struggled. The team has scored only six goals in their opening stretch of the season and while they have a lot of shots, they have not generated many high quality scoring chances.
The goods news is that time should only help them to get better. The return of Haji should help the offense as well as the ever growing team chemistry as they get accustomed to playing with one another.
A new philosophy with Crabill in command will take some getting used to, but by midseason if all comes together for the Pride, they should be able to round back into their usual strong form. Time will tell with this crew.