Better communication leads men's soccer to historic run
The Hofstra men’s soccer team has been on an incredible run this past month, setting a school record with seven consecutive shutouts, which is also currently the longest streak in the nation. After getting off to a rough start early on with a 0-3-1 record, they have been one of the best teams in the conference since, now with a 5-3-3 record.
“It was a relatively new team, with 10 members out of 24, so we had to get used to each other and understand the parts within the team,” said head coach Richard Nuttall.
The team’s recent undefeated streak has also been a result of a formation change that was made, which has improved the chemistry between new and veteran players.
“I think an underlying factor to our success is that the attitudes of the players have been tremendous and very open minded to learn,” Nuttall said.
Goalkeeper Alex Ashton has been gaining a lot of attention during this stretch and has been a huge piece of the Pride’s defense. His seven-game shutout streak is also a school record. He ranks second in the conference in save percentage and is tied for first in total saves.
“We’ve always had confidence in him; that’s why he’s our starting goalie. I think the shutouts have to do with everybody, from one to 24, not just Alex,” said senior defenseman Sean Nealis.
Communication has been the biggest factor for Hofstra’s defense this season; being able to communicate with everybody on the field is the reason why they are 5-0-2 in their last seven games.
“We still have room to improve in communicating and I think our one-on-one defending, which we work on every day, is a key element to our success so far,” Nealis said.
Currently in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play, Hofstra looks to continue to improve in order to keep up in the standings.
“This is a project that needs to keep evolving in a positive manner and if we stand still, we’ll get beat,” Nuttall said.
The Pride are currently No. 3 in their conference behind University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) and James Madison University. Hofstra tied UNCW in their game on Sept. 22 and will face off against James Madison on Oct. 13.
With three big upcoming CAA games, the Pride will have to continue to play tight defense and be able to generate scoring chances. They’ll need to improve in other areas as well.
“Our movement of the ball quickly needs to get a lot better, and I think our attitude has got to remain open minded,” Nuttall said.
On offense, forward Matthew Vowinkel has been sensational. Not only is he leading the team in goals with six, he is also tied for No.2 in the conference and ranks No. 4 in total points with 12. He has been able to improve each game and is a leader for this Pride offense.
“He’s reflective of the whole group. I think he’s grown in confidence because the team has grown in confidence. His mentality to work hard is tremendous and he’s outstanding in his work ethic,” Nuttall said.
Looking ahead, Hofstra continues their CAA play against the University of Delaware, Northeastern University, first-place James Madison and Elon University. The Pride have done well against their CAA opponents, posting a 2-0-1 record so far, beating Drexel University and the College of William & Mary. Their tie came against UNCW.
“Every day we’re trying to get better. Every day is a new challenge, making sure we’re all eating right, practicing as hard as we can and bringing that hard work into every game,” Nealis said.
It’s been a successful season so far for the Pride. They showed perseverance after the rough start and now are where they want to be.
Photo courtesy of Cam Keough