Men’s soccer is trying to maintain its physical health amid combative play from opponents.
The team has accumulated 20 yellow cards over 10 games this season, tying them for No. 1 in number of yellow cards among A-10 teams with Fordham and George Mason. Players said the team has faced tough physical play from its conference foes, and the squad needs to focus on recovery to bring itself back to full physical health.
The squad ranks third in fouls (142) in the A-10, narrowly trailing La Salle (146) and Fordham (143). The squad’s 20 yellow cards are on par with the 21 yellow cards collected last season throughout the first 10 matchups and well over the 12 yellow cards tallied in its first 10 games in 2017.
The offense is using the physical nature of the A-10 to its advantage, drawing three penalties in the box this season. Senior forward Max Holdsworth has capitalized on all three chances, which comprise his total goals on the year.
“You’ve got to play physically, but you’ve got to play to win the ball,” Holdsworth said. “As long as we’re playing the ball, they’re still going to give us some fouls here and there, but we should be alright.”
Holdsworth added that the team tries not to play too physically during practice to avoid injuries.
The Colonials entered the season short of several key members of the squad, resulting in a relatively young, inexperienced starting lineup. Head coach Craig Jones said he structured the squad’s nonconference schedule to expose his team to different kinds of play and give the team opportunities to practice matching other squads’ physicality.
“Nonconference schedule is set up to put us against all different opposition,” head coach Craig Jones said. “Guys that are direct, guys with play, teams that are physical, so it’s nothing we haven’t seen in other games. We just got to match that. If you can match a team’s physicality and then the talent, we will rise to the top and win games.”
Jones said the Colonials are trying to regenerate between games, but players have not been given a long rest period since they began their A-10 slate. Through 10 games, the Colonials were afforded an average of about four days to recuperate between games.
“We’re doing everything we can, getting our trainers working overtime, trying to get the guys healthy and fit, but it’s tough when the games come so quick and fast,” Jones said. “It’s tougher for the guys to take the time off.”
Jones added that he has struggled this season to create lineups before matches because the team has been hit with injury. The team has been without key fixtures of its squad, including junior forward Oscar Haynes Brown who netted a team-leading 11 goals last year.
Haynes Brown recorded his first minutes of action in a loss to A-10 opponent George Mason Saturday. But he did not see action Tuesday in the Colonials’ 3–0 loss to Virginia.
The Colonials rank fourth in the A-10 with 131 shots on the year. But the team has only sent seven into the back of the net this season, ranking them No. 11 among A-10 teams.
Graduate student Matt Sipowicz said players need to put themselves on the line and focus on finishing at the net after its 2–1 loss to George Mason Saturday.
“I’m putting my body on the line, but it’s not that,” Sipowicz said. “It’s a little more focus, a little more intensity, a little more effort and intentional movement.”
He added that playing two games a week can be draining on the team’s health, but it has leaned on graduate assistant athletic trainer Perry Cancilla to run through stretches and other healthy practices.
“Just making sure everyone is staying focused outside of practice and getting something in on your own, whether it’s stretching at home or doing some yoga,” Sipowicz said.
Sipowicz said the squad does not have an issue playing physically, and the team’s luck will finally start to turn around once they adopt a more determined attitude in front of the goal.
“I’d say that physicality hasn’t been a huge issue for us,” Sipowicz said. “Especially since we have a couple of the guys on the team, like Colin, going in on a bunch of headers. I take pride in myself, pretty physically, because I’m 5-foot-7-inches. It’s just getting in there, honestly just determination.”
The Colonials return to the pitch Wednesday in another A-10 face-off at St. Bonaventure. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.