Men’s soccer victorious in season, home opener

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Men’s soccer victorious in season, home opener

Junior Wessel Rietveld steals the ball from West Virginia Tech during a 2017 matchup. Rietveld suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener.

Junior Wessel Rietveld steals the ball from West Virginia Tech during a 2017 matchup. Rietveld suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener.

Photo by Megan Bixler

Junior Wessel Rietveld steals the ball from West Virginia Tech during a 2017 matchup. Rietveld suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener.

Photo by Megan Bixler

Photo by Megan Bixler

Junior Wessel Rietveld steals the ball from West Virginia Tech during a 2017 matchup. Rietveld suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener.

Written By Dara Collins, Co-Sports Editor

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The men’s soccer team secured its seventh-straight winning record last season finishing 11-6 overall and 6-3 in the River States Conference (RSC). However, the Pioneers continue to struggle against conference powerhouses Rio Grande and West Virginia University Tech (WVU Tech.)

“They’re just naturally really powerful and really strong in a lot of positions, so they’re going to be a good fight this year,” sophomore midfielder Jonathan Hanks said. “But we have good players in every position, so I think we can hang with just about anyone. It just comes down to our tactics.”

Point Park ranked third in the RSC Men’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll behind favorite Rio Grande and runner-up WVU Tech. Senior goalkeeper Ryan Daniels and junior midfielder Wessel Rietveld explained further losses to both teams can be avoided this year with tweaks to the team’s strategies.

“I think we need to be better at staying composed for the full 90 minutes rather than 45, and I think that will help us be able to get past them this year,” Daniels said.

Rietveld hoped to capitalize on taking chances and agreed with Daniels that the team needs to finish a game.

“Hopefully we will use our chance that we will have because we will only have a few chances to win against those teams, and we have to take those chances,” Rietveld said. “Maybe we will play a little more defensively because they are a strong team, so we will sit back a little bit more and wait for our moments and in those moments we have to finish the game.”

Under the coaching of the program’s all-time winningest coach, Jeroen Walstra, the 2018 team looks to make the necessary adjustments to top these two foes as well as the rest of the competition.

The men continue to compete for vacant spots left behind from previous season’s key players including Josh Williams, Alan Ramos and Roberto Whitley.

”I don’t think you really fill in holes like that,” Daniels said. “Those are really good players, and they bring a passion and knowledge of the game…that help people become better. I think you just do your best to adjust with what you have.”

The Pioneers have a diverse crew to choose from. 13 newcomers join the returning members from the 2017 season.

“Coach has been pretty strict on [the recruits] to make them focused, but they’re doing really well, and they come from all over,” Hanks said.

The team physically prepared for the season with multiple practices in a single day mixed with gym sessions. Mentally, the men will strengthen as the season progresses.

“We just have to study the teams that we play a little bit and see what we can do to outsmart the other team,” Hanks said.

The team played two scrimmages at Slippery Rock University (SRU) and California University (Cal U) of Pennsylvania to kick off the season. The Pioneers tied with SRU 1-1 and fell to Cal U 3-0.

The regular season began last Saturday with a non-conference match against Thiel College. The Pioneers walked away with its first win after topping the Tomcats 5-1.

“We really controlled the game…we were really waiting for our moment to create the attack,” Rietveld said.

RSC play takes off on Sept. 20. Point Park will continue the historic competition with Rio Grande and WVU Tech on Sept. 27 and 29, respectively, at Highmark Stadium.

Although team chemistry, composure and communication pose a current concern, Daniels foresees a successful winning season.

“I think we have a well-rounded team,” Daniels said. “I think once we get our chemistry down, we figure how each other likes to play…and we play a couple games and yell at each other enough, we’ll figure it out.”

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