Men’s soccer freshmen mature early with time on pitch

first_imgThis year, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team has plenty of players that are going through the very stressful transition from high school to college.The adjustment from high school to college is difficult for every student, especially one that plays a sport, but for the college athlete, they must adjust to new teammates, new coaches and a new style of play on top of a new academic atmosphere.After the men’s soccer team lost 12 players from last year’s NCAA tournament team, the team’s new crop of freshman are battling through their first collegiate season while making that adjustment. The team’s 1-5-1 overall record this year may imply that the new guys are struggling to adjust, but the reality of the situation is that the players have adjusted well thus far and are continuing to progress.One of the biggest adjustments for the players, despite the obvious speed and physicality of the college game, is how much is demanded of them from the start and the pressure to produce right away.“I think they are always learning,” head coach John Trask said. “We are asking a lot out of these guys and they knew that coming in. They knew that they were going to be expected to perform and obviously we would like to see that at a higher level, but also knew they were going to struggle initially.”According to Trask, the team is still getting settled.With 12 new freshmen currently on the team, many of them were forced to be put into a big role on the team from the very first match. Many of them were called upon to play and a few of them were even starting in the first match against a talented San Francisco team Aug. 29.While it may seem that Trask was forced to play so many freshman because they take up so much of his roster, he still had the confidence to play them because of their physicality, despite the fact that all of them are still developing skill-wise.“I think they all come from good clubs, they have all had good coaching, and physically most of those guys are up to par,” Trask said. “When you look all the way through our freshmen class, you see some really gifted athletes…They still have room to grow as players, but they have a physicality that allows them to compete as freshmen.”Among the youngsters is freshmen forward Mark Segbers, who leads the team with four goals this season.Segbers was not initially a starter for UW, but after impressing the coaching staff in the team’s first two matches, scoring two goals in the second contest against Xavier, he found himself on the pitch for the opening kickoff in the team’s third game against George Mason.Being asked to be a starter so early on in your college career can be quite nerve-racking for a freshman, but Segbers explained that it was ultimately the support of his teammates and coaches that helped him settle into his role.“I would say I was a little nervous for the first game, but all the other guys on the team really gave me confidence. They really make you realize that you are out there for a reason,” Segbers said. “The encouragement from both them and the coaches turns those nerves into confidence and helps you play out there like you have been playing for a year already.”Another freshman that was asked to take on a huge role from the very start is forward Chris Mueller.Mueller felt the need to adjust before he even stepped foot on the pitch. The overall atmosphere and temperament of the student body at Wisconsin was something Mueller never personally experienced in high school.“It was much bigger,” Mueller said. “Right away all the buildings and all the people swallow you. The atmosphere is much different too. It has more of a school spirit vibe than high school. Everyone here is in it for the Badgers and everyone is a Badger. In high school, students didn’t seem as proud to be there as they are here.”Once Mueller took his first steps onto the pitch, he also had to adjust to the college game, as all freshmen do.“It is much more physically and mentally demanding,” Mueller said. “You could take a lot of breaks in academy and high school-level soccer, but in college soccer you never have time to click off. It’s much more physical. You always have to be aware and it’s always a battle.”Mueller, after starting three games for the Badgers, currently finds himself coming off of the bench for the team. For Mueller, the adjustment continues, as it does for all of Wisconsin’s freshmen.Coming off of being stars on their high school teams, these young men must once again work their way up the team against older, more experienced players. And that, in the end, may be the biggest adjustment of them all.“I think part of it is just the demands that are put upon them and the fact that they’re playing against older, more experienced players again,” Trask said. “It seems like with most teams we play, their average player is at least a year older than ours, and that is really tough on the younger players.”last_img

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