Men’s soccer looks to surprise the Big South going into 2022 season


Seth Maile

Sophomore Conor Behan stretches out to reach the ball in the opposing penalty area.

Jared Feinberg, Sports Writer [email protected]

UNC Asheville’s men’s soccer program heads into the upcoming 2022-2023 season, setting its sights on improving its standing in the Big South conference with the ultimate goal of shocking the league.

The Bulldogs possessed the worst record in the Big South conference during the 2021-22 season at 1-14-1, including an 0-8 record in conference play. Their only victory last season came in their season-opener at home against Northern Kentucky, 3-2.

As the 2022-23 season gets underway, head coach Mick Giordano said one of his most prominent goals this year is to improve the culture in his program while becoming one of the best sporting initiatives on campus. 

“Our main goal for this season is to continue to progress our culture as we want to be a premier program on campus. This means we find excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Control what we can control daily and strive for excellence in all facets of life,” said coach Giordano.

Sophomore Conor Behan and junior Brendan Herb expressed their excitement about getting back onto the pitch this season. 

Behan, one of the Bulldogs’ midfielders, said he’s enthused about the new group of players he’ll be performing alongside on the pitch this season. “I’m really excited for this year and to see what this relatively new group of players can do. We’ve been waiting now for a while to get back into it so we can’t wait,” he said.

Coach Giordano, an alumnus of UNCA, enters his second season as the Bulldogs head coach of the men’s soccer program. He said coaching for his alma mater makes him feel extremely fortunate and honored.

“It was where I had a second chance for my own career after transferring in and a place I hold close to my heart. I’m not sure words truly describe how fortunate I feel to coach at my former school,” said coach Giordano. “It is an honor and a privilege to be a Bulldog and leave the program better than it was when I was a player.”

Since he began his career as a coach, Giordano said the most important thing he’s learned up to this point is to always be honest with his players. “No matter how difficult the information may be to deliver, be honest with your players. They will know you care if you show true honesty and vulnerability to them,” he said.

For the Bulldogs, there is always room for improvement not only on the pitch but within the program, as it looks as though the culture of the team has improved. Midfielder Behan said he believes there’s always room for improvement, not only on the pitch but within the program as well.

“A big thing that I think we have improved on as a team is our culture and the people that we have in our group now. The feeling around the group is really positive and it’s starting to really feel like a family. This side of the game is so important and I think it’s in a really good place at the moment,” Behan said. 

During his freshman season, Behan led the program with 34 shots, 17 shots on goals and tied for the most goals on the team with two.

A transfer student from Oregon State, Herb said he’s stoked for the new season, and he’s looking to improve a couple of areas of his game going forward. “I have been working on my finishing ability and strength in shielding the ball from the opposition,” said the former Beaver.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought along many challenges for student-athletes, especially Behan, who said his freshman year was his toughest in regards to training during the offseason.

“Due to COVID, it had a very different look to what the team and I had been used to in the past. We had no games, just training, lifts and fitness. To overcome it, I used the fact that we’d get to play in the spring,” said Behan. “We really wanted to prove a point to people that year and the work we put in paid off.”

Herb explained that remaining consistent is one of his toughest challenges in regard to training. “It’s difficult to play consistently when so many factors go into your performance. I work on overcoming this by controlling what I can control every day and going all in,” he said.

The UNCA Bulldogs struggled to score last season, averaging less than a goal per game compared to their opponents, who scored more than three goals per game on average. Coach Giordano said they look to work on being more aggressive this season.

“We will look to have a more possession-based attacking style. As well, we will look to be a bit more aggressive with a fast-paced pressing identity as we defend,” said Giordano.

Coach Giordano also discussed what makes a successful student-athlete and the challenges they face. He said student-athletes must be organized when it comes to their sport, the classroom and the balance of having a part-time job.

“We talk to our student-athletes about being balanced in life. Find the balance between your academics and football. That being said, it takes true determination and a desire to be successful for a student-athlete these days. They have to really want to find success and be willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve success in the classroom and on the field,” he said.

Herb said he wants the Bulldogs to shock a lot of people this fall. “My expectations for myself and my fellow teammates are to shock this conference and this nation. I want to show everyone what this Bulldog team can do this year,” he said.

Behan explained he and his teammates all have individual goals that he hopes can turn into success for the Bulldogs this season. 

“As a group our main goal is to perform well and win each game as it comes, but of course the ultimate goal would be to win the Big South,” he said. “We’re just focused on the day-to-day right now.”