VCMS secures bid in league playoffs

Vassar’s men’s soccer team has found itself in the Liberty League playoffs after a very strong 2014 regular season. Once they finished off their in-season work against Bard with a 2-1 victory, the team sported an impressive winning record of 11-5-2. They have now advanced to the Liberty League tournament. Senior forward Andre Cousineau explained in a written statement what he thought drove the team’s success this year: “The success from our regular season stems from 100 percent commitment from everyone on the team to help each other and grow as a team together.”

He attributed the team’s record to their team’s ability to grow and adapt, saying, “We constantly learn, whether it be the day’s practice, the Monday video sessions, or the coach’s advice. The willingness to improve, even when victory was achieved, was the main reason for our success. Hopefully it continues.” Head Coach Andy Jennings gave credit to the personnel. “Although we lost some good seniors last year, we had a great group of freshmen (four start most games) come in,” he said, “So the recruiting really paid off, and some older players have really stepped up.” Senior captain Zach Nasipak echoed Jennings’ sentiments, commenting, “A lot of our success this season is due to the depth of talent we have on our team. We lost a good group of seniors last year, but brought in a very skilled group of freshmen so the level of skill on this team continues to improve with each year. We are constantly pushing one another in practice and demand a high standard because we know that we are a very good team. There is a lot of self-belief on this team and that motivates us every game to perform to the best of our abilities.” What made the difference for senior captain Justin Mitchell was the team’s mentality; he explains, “A lot of our success can be attributed to the fact that we committed to playing quality soccer. Even in tight situations where it’s easy to play ugly and try to regroup, we were able to play good soccer out of those situations. Because we played a high quality of soccer, it’s tough for teams to defend us.” Each of the above essentials to success has fueled a strong performance from the Brewers since late August. Cousineau recalled some of his more favorite moments with the team, recalling, “I think the most important moments are the ones where we are in practice and everyone gets to be themselves and put their little twist on the VC brand of soccer. And the moments where we joke around before practice, or sing happy birthday to someone after. The little things like that, which are actually great moments in time, will always stay with me. I get look back and see how fortunate I was to have those moments.”

While this is the fourth consecutive post-season run for the men’s team, no one expects that the future will be devoid of challenges. Two other teams in the tournament are nationally-ranked, both St. Lawrence and RPI, and neither wins will come easily. Coach Jennings put simply, “The obstacles are that the top teams make it to the playoffs—so we are facing the best teams in a league that is considered one of the top soccer conferences in the country. However, we have fared well against these teams this year and despite losing to one of the final four, we know we can beat them so there is certainly a belief that we can advance.” Mitchell foresees the same challenges: “There aren’t any weak teams in the playoffs, and to win against these teams we really need to focus on finishing our chances.” Nasipak agreed, but noted that there are internal difficulties to sort out, saying, “The Liberty League is one of the best leagues in the country and you have to perform at your best every game to be successful, no matter who you are playing. But honestly, I think we are our own biggest obstacle. We know we have a talented team and we have put together some great performances recently but have struggled a bit getting the results we want. If everyone is focused and playing at their best during the playoffs we will be very successful.”

A number of players have had an impact and helped carry the team through the regular season. Freshman Reid Smith has had a standout rookie performance. Mitchell said of Smith, “He’s an incredible player, with a bunch of assists and a goal already this season.” Midfielder and junior Jordan Palmer is also promising looking player. Nasipak commented, “Jordan Palmer has been performing extremely well in practice and I think his creativity in the midfield is going to help us a lot this postseason.” According to Cousineau, Vassar’s goalkeeper, Adam Warner, has also had a standout season and should find continued success as the team advances. While each of these athletes will bring a lot to the table, Jennings believes each player will carry the Brewer’s performance. “It is difficult to identify one or two players as we have had a number of players step up for us—they are all contributing—even the players who do not see a lot of time in games. Relatively speaking, we are a very good possession based team and this can only be achieved through work in practices so the players that do not play as much in games are absolutely critical (during those practice sessions) in helping us achieve any of the success we are currently enjoying.”

With so many talented athletes and a great mindset, it looks like the men’s soccer team could quite possibly achieve Andy Jennings’ simple post-season goal: “Win the tournament.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *