by Dr. Justin Brent | Faculty Advisor
On Sunday, the PC Men’s Soccer Team lost in overtime to the Fighting Camels of Campbell by a score of 1-0–a heartbreaking loss in a very evenly matched game. Generally speaking, PC created more possession and scoring opportunities in the first half, while Campbell was slightly more dominant in the second.
In the 9th minute of overtime, PC struggled to clear a ball after a corner kick. Campbell defender Gideon Betz seized the opportunity and fired a rocket from short range that found the back of the net.
Given last year’s Cinderella story, the loss was all the more bitter for PC players and fans alike. The team had entered the Big South tournament as a heavy underdog and pulled off three straight upsets to gain the conference championship.
This year, they went in as a third seed and therefore played two of three tournament games at home: compared to the odds of last season, victory seemed practically assured. Not surprisingly, a dour pall descended over Martin Stadium following the overtime goal.
As the dust settles, however, many positives from the season will no doubt come into focus. After a rocky start of nine straight losses, PC was able to regroup during conference play and go 6-3 against conference opponents. Two of those losses were overtime losses, as was Sunday’s.
If we exclude overtime, PC held Big South opponents to five goals this season, and that includes the playoffs. Yet in the scoring column, PC scored 22 and won by more than one goal in eight games (including playoffs).
These kinda numbers explain why more and more fans are showing up to soccer matches–Blue Hose soccer has become really fun to watch! To pull off this kind of transformation of a team is not easy. After all, in soccer a single Michael Jordan cannot transform a team, and as the US Men’s National Team has proven, sometimes money, resources and decades of development don’t lead to results.
So the question remains… how did PC pull off this dramatic change?
Certainly a major part of the answer is recruitment. Several very talented recruits have been convinced that PC soccer is capable of transformation. Players like Ricardo Hernandez, Victor Menudier, and Sergio Pinto had significant choices about where to play, yet all were persuaded to sign with PC.
For most fans, the skill of recruitment is an invisible one. Not many appreciate the challenges of earning the trust of would-be players, or of showing them a compelling vision of transformation. It requires uncanny communication skills and empathetic awareness.
Men’s Soccer Recruitment Coordinator, Mr. Flo Liu, may be one of the unacknowledged heroes of the team’s rise. Certainly he was instrumental in bringing in talent and doing so with less scholarship money than most of our competitors.
“It helps to have grown up as an immigrant myself,” notes Liu regarding his success with recruiting internationals. “Players are anxious about jumping into the unknown, so they appreciate talking to someone who has been there before.”
With regard to newcomers, Liu believes that Jordan Barbara, Marcos Kitromilides, Jan Hoffelner, and Spencer Ayen (redshirted) in particular show tremendous promise. They will have to take on major responsibility as PC says farewell to seniors Jakob Luedke, Yacine Tchemmoun and Plamen Mangarov.
Obviously recruitment alone does not win soccer games. To maintain the attractive brand of soccer that PC fans have enjoyed for the past two seasons, other intangibles such as tactics, player development, and teeth-gritting determination will be crucial.
A large, enthusiastic fan base also plays a major role in winning. So rather than thinking of this as the end of a season, let’s call it the beginning of soccer fanaticism in Clinton, SC: come out and support your Blue Hose!