Men’s soccer kicks off strongly

The Men’s Soccer team has had a mix of wins and losses so far this season. They won their first four games, lost the next three, and then won last Saturday at Hood College.

Coach Alun Oliver was happy with the wins at the beginning of the season, saying, “It was really important to get a good start, we haven’t had a good start for a few years now, so that has been a team goal since the start of the season. We did really well at our first two tournaments, and we actually won both.”

The team’s first loss, 2-1, was against John’s Hopkins. When reviewing the game, Oliver had a mixed opinion, saying, “To be honest we had a chance to tie it up and we really should have, but they were a good team. They are always regionally or nationally ranked so the fact that we competed against them was a great step for us.”

Even though they lost the next two games, 1-3 against Frostburg and 0-1 against Richard Stockton, the team took a turn in the right direction, defeating Hood 1-0 on Sept. 24. Before the game, Oliver commented saying, “Hood is going to be another tough one. It’s another conference game and they’ve had great start to the season also. As long as we take care of the details, we should perform well and come out with a victory.”

The team also played on Hood’s field, which was a turf surface. This could have been problematic for the SMCM team, which is more used to the Bermuda field on campus. However, Coach Oliver said, “That’s no excuse, its just something we’ll have to get used to. A lot of teams have turf now so its just something we’ll have to deal with, hopefully we can deal with it sooner rather than later.”

The coach was happy with how the team transitioned from last year to this year, saying, “The majority of the freshman have stepped up, at least four or five are playing on a regular basis, which is huge for us. They’ve adapted themselves pretty well to the college game,” he said. “As freshmen, it’s tough for them to adapt straight away but they’ve done a great job. The sophomores, juniors, and seniors have welcomed them with open arms. We’ve built ourselves a good team spirit, which is half the battle of coaching really.”

For Hawktoberfest, the team plans on honoring past athletes. “We want to get as many past alums to come back. It’s the 40th anniversary of Soccer at St. Mary’s, whoever does show up, we are going to try to honor them at halftime in our game against Stevenson, and have them walk out on the field,” said Oliver. The game will be at home on October 1.

Soccer Coach Retires After 13 Years

The men’s soccer team was the first Sports team I covered for The Point News as a staff writer in Fall 2009, making Coach Gainey the first St. Mary’s coach I met on a level higher than an acquaintance. The team stood 2-4 at the time, and had lost their only conference game of the season as the large number of first-year and sophomore athletes grew accustomed to College-level playing.

Despite the stresses of a difficult season kick-off, Coach Gainey was perfectly down-to-earth during my interview with him, and was really easy-going and helpful, even directing athletes in my direction during the team’s practice for more information for my article.

As I’ve interviewed him throughout the semesters following the first, he’s never failed to put others before himself, and always has been proud of his team in the best and worst turns of the seasons. He was honest and insightful every interview, no matter how the team was doing.

The Sports section of the paper will miss Coach Gainey, and looks forward to continuing coverage of his players and the legacy he’s leaving with them.

Question: What brought you to St. Mary’s College?

Answer: I started at St. Mary’s in winter of 1997 as an assistant coach working with Eric Wagner, the then current coach. I was introduced to Eric by Rich Edgar, the Director of Admissions and one of my best friends. When Eric decided to go to Swarthmore to become the Head Coach, the opening of a lifetime was there for me. I had dreamed since the age of 19 of becoming a college soccer coach, but always thought it could never happen. At the time I had a great career doing Information Technology Management work at the Naval Base, and thought I could never walk away from that, but I did. I couldn’t pass up my one shot at my dream.

Q: What was your first season like as a coach for the Seahawks?

A: My first season was awesome! I had great players that Eric and I had brought into the program and we had just come off of a 14 game winning season. We ended up winning 15 games my first season which was the most games the team had ever won in a year.

Q: What was it like to switch from coaching female players to male players, and do you have a preference for either?

A: I really hadn’t coached girls much prior to taking the job; I had just started coaching girls some time before. Jen Henderson, the head coach at Leonardtown High, got me hooked on coaching girls outside the college level. It is a blast coaching girls and totally different from coaching boys. The girls absorb information better and try to apply it better in my opinion. The game is a little different, but coaching girls that can play the game is great!

Q: What made you start to think about retirement?

A: I always promised myself that when the game became too much of a job, or I started to lose my passion for the game or I wasn’t getting it done on the field that I would walk away. It has been almost 32 years of coaching soccer at all levels short of professional. I am just tired, to be honest.

Q: What are your plans once you leave St. Mary’s?

A: I am working back at my old job for the most part at Patuxent River Naval Air Station doing ITM work again. I hope to work with the College on a volunteer basis on committees and really want to work to get a new stadium built at the college.

Q: If there is one thing you could change about your coaching career at SMCM, what would it be?

A: I wanted to win a CAC championship in the worst way and we were close three different times, and I just didn’t get that done. I made a mistake recruiting one year and it bit us for three years. I would certainly change that.

Q: Is there a final message you’d like to leave for the men’s soccer team?

A: I hope each player realizes what they really have at the College and in their team. They are creating memories that will last forever and growing as quality young men. I truly love them and can’t wait to see what they do in their lives. I hope they will consider me their friend for life!

Final Comments: I would also like to say thanks to Rich Edgar and Scott Devine for giving me the chance to live my dream. To the rest of the Athletic Department, it has been awesome! I will miss everyone.

Men’s Soccer Struggles Through Season, Reverses To Make CAC Playoffs

After a hard fight this season against some of the top college teams in the country, the men’s soccer team managed to turn around a losing season just in time to make the Capital Athletic Conference playoffs, losing 1-0 in their first round but nonetheless playing a intense game to remember.

The Seahawks began their Fall 2010 season roughly, losing their first three matches against Neumann College on Sept. 1, Elizabethtown College on Sept. 4, and the State University of New York Genesco on Sept. 5. All three matches were shut-outs against the College, and while none were conference matches, they still set up the athletes for a tough rest-of-season.

“We aren’t really doing as well as we thought,” said Coach Herb Gainey, now in his ninth season with the men’s soccer team. “But the team has turned 180 [degrees] from last year, and I’m proud that they haven’t bailed out.”

The team stepped up its performance the following week, matching Greensboro College 1-1 after an overtime match Sept. 11 and winning 2-1 during a home game against Methodist University the following day. First-year midfielder Brian Payne made an appearance during the first half, flicking a loose ball into the Monarchs’ goal to give the Seahawks the first point of the game.

“The freshman players are good, and talented,” said Gainey. “Their energy helps in training and in games.”

While losing the Seahawk Classic on Sept. 15 to the nationally-ranked Swarthmore College 3-1 despite a point-for-point first half, the team again turned its luck around on Sept. 18 with a 3-2 overtime victory against Stevenson University, giving the Seahawks their first conference game of the season.

“This team is the closest group of guys I have ever been a part of,” said junior forward Ted Scharfenberg. “We fight every time we are on the field and never give up.”

Unfortunately, men’s soccer took another losing streak over the two weeks following the Stevenson game, losing 2-0 against the University of Mary Washington on Sept. 22, 3-0 to York College on Sept. 25, and 3-0 against Salisbury University Oct. 2 in another series of shut-outs to bring the team to a 1-3 CAC spread.

While the team came back with a 2-1 victory over Shenandoah University Oct. 6, it faced a net loss after two shut-out defeats by Oct. 11 against Richard Stockton College and Johns Hopkins University.

The Seahawks took a conference win and draw at home against Hood College and Frostburg State University, respectively, but suffered three consecutive losses at the hands of Marymount, Christopher Newport, and Catholic Universities, bringing their CAC spread to 2-4-1 by Oct. 26.

For the men’s team, this meant that the Seahawks would have to win their last match of the official season, against Wesley College, to make it to the playoffs.
“Tomorrow’s game against Wesley will determine if we’re in or out [of the playoffs],” said Gainey in an interview on Oct. 27.

In a surge of strength and teamwork, the Seahawks managed to score the first goal within the first two minutes of play, as senior midfielder George Gusack placed the ball perfectly for senior midfielder Keith Hines’ chip-in. By the end of play, the team won 2-0 over the Wolverines, earning its place as the fifth seed team for the playoffs after a Senior Day Oct. 28 victory.

While making it to the playoff game against Mary Washington on Oct. 31, the Seahawks took a heartbreaking 1-0 loss against the Eagles after a scoreless first-half against the fourth seed school.
“It was an intense game,” said junior midfielder Matt Grady after the match.

“While performance-wise we didn’t improve this season, in terms of teamwork and heart we really did.”

The Seahawks will return to the field next fall with the start of a new season. While the season could potentially be just as difficult with the loss of 11 seniors, the abilities of the incoming athletes will hopefully show the promise that the men’s team will need in 2011.

Men’s Soccer Recovers from Rough Start to Season

Junior forward Drew Gainey, first-year forward Pierre Zibi, and junior defender Taylor Lewis performed well on the Stevenson University soccer field on Sat., taking the win from the Mustangs in overtime. (Photo by Ryan Gugerty)
Junior forward Drew Gainey, first-year forward Pierre Zibi, and junior defender Taylor Lewis performed well on the Stevenson University soccer field on Sat., taking the win from the Mustangs in overtime. (Photo by Ryan Gugerty)
Men’s Soccer Coach Herb Gainey referred to his squad as “one of the most individually talented teams I’ve coached at St. Mary’s in the last five years.”

The team kicked off the season with a tour through Italy in August, during which the Seahawks posted a record of 2-1 and outscored their opponents 8-5. Aside from the playing experience the team gained while training in Italy, Coach Gainey believes his squad benefited most from the team unity that they developed abroad. “[The trip] allowed the team to bond. Work began in Italy, but once we got back, I had more players pass the fitness test than any other year. The boys get along well and respect each other.”

The Men’s Soccer team’s first three games of 2010 were not as successful as the Italian tour. After losing the season opener against Neumann College 5-0, the Seahawks traveled to Salisbury to compete in the Elmer Lord Classic. In a pair of hard fought matches the team created many opportunities around the net but failed to convert, forcing the Hawks home with two 2-0 losses.

Eager to recover from their 0-3 start, the Seahawks returned home for their season opener, and tied Greensboro College 1-1 in a hard-fought match. After a controversial goal by Greensboro late in the first half, the Hawks found themselves trailing for the fourth consecutive game. Behind intense defensive pressure and the right-footed goal scored by junior transfer Mark Jaskolski, the team reversed a three-game skid.

The following day, the overcast, rainy weather failed to slow down the Seahawks. Continuing the pressure and intensity from the previous match, junior Brian Payne scored his first goal of the season for the Hawks in the 25th minute. Just 28 seconds into the second half, Methodist University equalized. At the 75th minute, Methodist fouled St. Mary’s in the penalty area. Payne stepped up, twelve yards from the goal, and buried his penalty shot in the back of the net. Payne’s second goal of the year lifted St. Mary’s past Methodist University and to the first win of the season.

After only two games in two days, the Seahawks transformed their record from 0-3 to a 1-3-1 standing. The catalyst behind the early season turn-around was the five days of hard training the team had between the Elmer Lord Classic and their game against Greensboro. In that week the team worked heavily on its application of defensive pressure, a factor that proved integral to their success against Greensboro and Methodist. Jaskolski’s presence proved to be a huge factor in the Seahawk’s heightened intensity during training. Jaskolski transferred this year from Loyola University, a talented Division I program. Coach Gainey believes, “[Jaskolski] is a huge factor. He’s a hard worker, technically skilled, reads the game well, and brings a level of intensity the team hasn’t had in a while.”

After besting the undefeated Salisbury University team in overtime on Sat., the Seahawks look to continue the heightened defensive pressure and intensity as they open conference play against the University of Mary-Washington on Sept. 22.

Men's Soccer Kicking into Action

Men's Soccer Kicking into Action (Photo by Matt Molek)
Men's Soccer Kicking into Action (Photo by Matt Molek)

As the St. Mary’s men’s soccer team takes its first kicks into the Fall season, the series of wins and losses both home and away foreshadow an intense year for the Seahawks.

This year’s team, with the loss of 10 experienced juniors and seniors from last season, is composed mostly of first-year and sophomore athletes.  The varsity squad is young compared to those of past seasons, making it difficult for the players to get the ball rolling against more experienced opponents.  Coached by Herb Gainey, entering his eighth season with the Seahawks, the players are still working through the problem of inexperience.  “[It has been] frustrating,” Gainey commented. “The little mistakes are biting us now.”

Starting off the season with a one-point shutout defeat against Johns Hopkins University, the Seahawks suffered another loss the following weekend against Richard Stockton College, 4-0.  The following day, Capital University’s Crusaders delivered another shut-out against St. Mary’s, bringing the tally to 0-3 for the season.  Said Kevin Seeger, a junior and the team’s defensive captain, “[they’ve been] tough losses, and tough games.”

Men's Soccer Kicking into Action (Photo by Matt Molek)
Men's Soccer Kicking into Action (Photo by Matt Molek)

Despite the difficult start to the season, the athletes are still confident in their team’s potential, working out the recurring flaws of gameplay.  “We need to work on moving off the ball,” commented Seeger, “transitioning from offense to defense more quickly.”

Some of these considerations aided the team two weekends ago when forwards Chris Quanima and Benard Agyingi scored two goals against Randolph-Macon College, taking the win on September 12th with a 2-0 shutout.  The Seahawks returned the following afternoon to take a 4-0 victory against Bridgewater College, as sophomore forward Ted Scharfenberg scored his first two points of the season in a 1:28-minute period.  “I felt more confident in my abilities because I got my first goal,” said Scharfenberg.  “It can only go up from here.”

Men's Soccer Kicking into Action (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)
Men's Soccer Kicking into Action (Photo by Brendan O'Hara)

However, with the one-goal loss last Wednesday to Mary-Washington College, the team holds an overall 2-4 record for the season, and the first of eight scheduled matches for the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC).  With a CAC standing of 0-1, the next game is crucial to the placement of the team in the conference.

Despite the stressed situation of the team’s standing and experience, the players are still holding together, and learning to function as a coherent unit for the games to come.  “The kids are working hard,” said Gainey, believing his experience with the team to be very rewarding.  “They want to learn what it is we’re trying to teach them to do.  If there is a respect between the players and the staff, you can always build from that.”

The next conference game is against Wesley College on September 19th, followed by a match against Gallaudet on the 21st.