The 2012 season will be a trial by fire for the Elizabethtown College Men’s Soccer team. The blue and gray will play nine teams that made the NCAA tournament last season. With the gauntlet of games the Jays have to play, the team will show the Commonwealth Conference the depth of its character.
“I think the most challenging thing for us this season is the competition we are playing,” Head Coach Skip Roderick said. “In the past, we have had phenomenal records but they claimed our schedule wasn’t strong enough. Our schedule is very top heavy at the begging to get us ready for our conference.”
Early season opponents will challenge the Jays to overcome the areas of the game they struggle with last year. According to Roderick, the team will be exposed to faster game play during non-conference competitions. The squad will also build chemistry and strive to be a cohesive unit from the defensive end to the offensive end.
“Because of the high level of competition we are playing it will either make us or break us,” Roderick said. “Hopefully by the time we play our conference games we will be at such a high speed of play that we will be able to compete at a very high level.”
A combination of core values and veteran leadership will determine the success of the squad this seaon. According to Roderick, he wants his team to attain maximum levels of fitness, intelligent, discipline and unity. In addition, he wants to see his team reach the Commonwealth Conference Championship game.
“I have four excellent leaders with Brian Strode, Ross Withrow, Eric Carr and Jose Ruiz,” Roderick said. “They are all committed to strive for excellence and make it their best year.”
The Jays faced their first round of competition last weekend at the Kwik Goal Tournament in Allentown, Pa. The squad recorded a 2-3 loss against Muhlenburg College on Friday and a 0-0 tie against Desales University on Saturday after two overtime periods.
After Muhlenberg earned a one goal advantage in the first minute of play, Withrow buried a goal in the third minute to deadlock the score at 1-1. Muhlenburg tacked on two more goals by the 48th minute and never trailed during the game. Zach Hollinger sliced the deficit to 2-3 with a goal in the 88th minute, but the Jays could not muster the tying tally.
DeSales presented an additional challenge on Saturday do to their size. According to Roderick, “Their average height was 6’3.” Their players were very skilled and they were dynamite in the attacking third.” Etown played 110 gritty minutes of soccer to earn a 0-0 draw. Senior keeper Erick Carr was injured during the game in the 63 minute. He was relieved by first year keeper Rodrigo Barrera who aided his teammate in silencing the DeSales offense.
In their next contests Etown will host the annual Blue Jay Classic at Ira R. Herr Field. The blue and gray will face off against Denison University this Friday and Johns Hopkins University on Saturday. However, Coach Roderick is unsure if Carr will play. “We hope he will play but if not we are fortunate enough to have great returning goalies and great freshman goalies, Roderick said. “Eric is the leader of the team and when he is healthy is one of the top goalies in the country.”
Coach Roderick is enthusiastic about the challenge of the Blue Jay classic and the teams that will participate this season. He even added a little political humor to the mix.
“We are really excited about the tournament because we have four states represented with New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Roderick Said. “So if I were running for president, I think Romney or Obama should be kicking out the first ball because these are primary states with a lot of delegates to be won.”