BLAKE LARGENT ’22 | SPORTS EDITOR •
After putting together a fifth-straight season with 11 or more wins, as well as returning to the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament for the third-straight season, the Wabash soccer team will open the 2019 season looking to continue that success streak.
“We’re expecting to get results and to win,” head coach Chris Keller said. “We’re expected to compete and get to the postseason. Those expectations are what we’ve been working for. Now it’s almost not enough to get there. We want more.”
After posting a regular season record of 12-4-3 last season, Wabash battled top-ranked Kenyon in the NCAC Tournament before being defeated off of a last-second goal in double overtime. Despite the devastating loss, Keller wants to use that game as a learning opportunity.
“Every year is completely different,” Keller said. “Our conference is so strong that it could be Kenyon winning one year, it could be us another, it could be DePauw, it could be Denison, or someone else. It’s a super competitive conference. We learned from that game. We had five freshmen start that game in the conference tournament against a team that eventually went to the Sweet Sixteen, so it was a good experience that we use as motivation moving forward.”
With the conclusion of the 2018 season, the Little Giants lost four key seniors that played a huge role in the team’s success. While attempting to fill in those spots can be challenging, Keller believes his team will be able to do so.
“I think our rising seniors have taken a great step in the leadership role, along with some of our juniors as well,” he said. “Two-thirds of our team is made up of freshmen and sophomores. [The upperclassmen] have done an excellent job at setting the foundation and the leadership mentality for them. They’ve done a great job replacing last season’s seniors both on and off the field.”
Keller continued to speak about the upperclassmen, and also listed some of the expectations the team has for the season.
“I think we always get fixated on wins and losses, but I think the expectation is for the core of seniors and juniors to lead the program in a responsible manner,” he said. “We want to get our heads down and grind out results. I think execution on game day is key, and those results will come if we execute. We’re the most fit we’ve ever been coming into preseason, so that’s exciting to see.”
Despite the team’s success in recent seasons, Keller did acknowledge some of the biggest challenges his team may face this season.
“I think our biggest challenge will be to mesh,” Keller said. “As I previously mentioned, two-thirds of our team are underclassmen. We want to be able to help them grow quickly, so that, when we get to conference play, it’s a whole other animal. We want to try to get those young guys in a lot early and give them some experience leading into conference play, which is always really difficult.”
Keller also had some comments for fans who will be watching and keeping up with the team throughout the season. “The future of the program is really bright. I’m really excited about the freshman and sophomore class. We just have to continue to buy in to what the leaders of this team want. I think we’re going to have more possession-style soccer, you’ll see a lot more creativity. I hope we’ll see more goals than we did last year, where we had to win a lot of one-goal games and it would be really tight.”
The Wabash soccer team will begin its 2019 campaign this evening with an away matchup against Franklin College at 7 p.m. and will have its first home match at Fischer Field on September 4 at 5 p.m., when they take on the Earlham College.