BY MATT MERKEL
Franciscan University’s Men’s Soccer team is showing signs of strength and cohesiveness winning two games in their young season. With two wins the Barons have already surpassed their win total from last year. Those two victories were strung together back to back marking the first time since 2010 that FUS has had a win streak.
During the spring of last season Head Coach Ward Rogers developed a different strategy for 2013 in hopes of making his roster more dominant for the years to come.
“Our main mission and vision is to build our team on four core values,” Rodgers said in an interview before the season kicked off. “Those are faith, integrity, humility and courage. We hope that with these values strengthened we will have an edge against other teams that do not have that as their focus.”
Rogers also wants to make sure that his players build a reputation off the soccer field. Making sure that his players’ on-field success is a result of their studies and faith is his main priority.
“It’s important that we integrate playing soccer with everything we do on campus,” Rogers said. “Soccer can not be an excuse to drop our academics or our faith. Hopefully the things we do in soccer will bleed into our students life of the field and into the future.”
Of course the team’s recent success is also a result of Franciscan’s roster that boasts a strong incoming class led by Freshman Forward Joseph Duran. Duran already has three goals for his team and nine total points.
“Our incoming class keeps us really honest,” Rogers said. “Our brotherhood has always been really strong but in the past it hasn’t correlated into wins. Now we have young guys who challenge the others on the roster and contribute just as much as themselves all while strengthening our original chemistry.”
Sophomore Middle Jace Vansteenburg talked about why he chose to attend FUS and how his head coach’s mentality only strengthens his resolve to play here.
“I’m seeing sports in a whole new way,” Vansteenburg says. “I’ve always been in athletics but sports in high school was nothing like this. The faith is completely integrated into athletics here. We play for the glory of God. We want to win but it’s not about us.”
While faith in athletics has been a staple for Rogers’ soccer teams in the past, there is one new deciding characteristic of this team that separates them from previous squads.
“Confidence,” Ward said. “We talk about playing with courage but not just that. We want to play with bravery. “Our guys do not panic. They stick to their game plan and do not try to do too much. Our play style has really picked up and I think we’re starting to get somewhere with the focus that we’re trying to drive into the goal.”
The Barons, with strong leadership and even stronger resolve to their faith, are becoming a team to recon with. They will start their conference play next week to produce strong results and vault themselves into the playoffs.