By Alayna V Sherk
The UNC Asheville Bulldogs men’s soccer team defeated Brevard College’s Tornadoes, 3-1, in their match last Sunday.
“Great team effort,” Coach Matt Kern said. “We scored a great first goal on a penalty kick off Paul Egle, those are always more difficult than they look. The second goal was a tremendous sequence: a little back flick by Stabler Cochrane to Kenneth Lingerfelt; who slotted it in to Emil for a second go ahead goal. It was ultimately the game winning goal. A great counter-attacking goal from Stabler Cochrane finished the game off.”
The Bulldogs took a beating only two days before against the UNC Greensboro Spartans with a final score of 0-2.
“We had a difficult game Friday night at Greensboro,” Kern said. “But we had only one day of recovery. Yesterday, the guys who had lots of minutes had a full recovery, and the guys who had less minutes had about an hour on the field. So it felt like we were physically fresh, but mentally fatigued.”
Despite fatigue, the Bulldogs were able to rise to the challenge of a very physical game. There were eight yellow cards, two red cards and two penalty kicks.
“I deal with physical playing in various ways. I’ll give you an example,” said Bobby Castro, senior forward and team captain. “One of our players is a little angry, aggressive, and I have to talk to him and tell him it’s not worth it. Another one of our guys said something he shouldn’t have, and that’s what led to one of his cards.”
However, most of the fouls were not verbal.
“A couple of our players get whacked, that’s kind of the nature of the game,” Castro said. “We’ve got to calm the guys down, get them in the right direction or they’ll get thrown out. That’s what we try to do, or at least that’s what I try to do.”
The Bulldogs played with 10 men after Jack Huber’s red card, thrown 57 minutes into the game.
“What we wanted to do, coming out of Greensboro, was bounce back from a loss like that,” said Andrew Sotak, a sophomore midfielder. “It’s especially hard when you go down to 10 men, like today.”
Though the game was suspended for 30 minutes due to lightning with four minutes left in the first half, the Bulldogs were not put out by sudden showers.
“After the rain delay, we were much better in the second half,” Kern said. “The first 30 minutes started out really slow. Brevard was trying to slow down the pace, and we were just a little bit mentally and physically tired.”
Staying sharp proved a step to victory, according to several Bulldog players.
“I think the rain delay, with the 30 minute break, was our biggest challenge,” said Kenneth Lingerfelt, senior forward. “We had to go sit down in the locker room, and we really had to work on staying focused as a team. But I think we did well, adjusted, and got the results.”
The Bulldogs knew they needed to come out after the weather suspension, even if it was only with 10 men, according to Sotak.
The Bulldogs came out on top, through all the rough play and challenges, because of coach Kern’s planning during practice.
“Coach keeps telling us, ‘Practice how you’ll play in the game,’” Castro said. “So practice is more physical now, and they don’t call fouls. You play through everything. I think that slight little change that he has made has helped crank our intensity up in practice, and that translates in the game as we saw today.”
The intense level of play demanded in practice created a stronger camaraderie within the team. When asked about their pick of most improved teammate, the Bulldogs had plenty to say.
“Our captains have done a great job, and senior leadership has been good,” Kern said. “Bobby Castro, A.J. Iiames and Rob May, I’m proud of the group right now.”
According to Castro, some of the freshmen, like Grady Bradshaw, played quite well and proved they have what it takes to be a collegiate athlete. Not only do the younger players continue to improve, but also the experienced players and the team as a whole have come together.
“We interchange so much that I’m starting to get a chemistry with all the players,” Sotak said. “Like Kenneth Lingerfelt, and number six, Grady Bradshaw. It’s nice to always be able to have that chemistry. It’s not always through games. It’s through practice, and it’s a thing that builds daily.”
The senior players know improvement when they see it, and the hard work resulted in visible progress.
“I would say our outside back, Andrew Sotak, has improved the most,” Lingerfelt said. “He came in and he was a good player. He was real technical and it seems like he gets better and better every game. It’s just fun to watch him, and today he really came out and was solid. He helped us defend and he really has a leadership role in our back four. It’s good to see that from him consistently.”
Overall, the Bulldogs found themselves pleased with their performance.
“I think we really pulled together as a team today,” Bradshaw said. “When we came out we were able to keep the ball and make some chances.”