The Thompson Rivers University men’s soccer team will be aiming for another successful run after claiming a bronze medal at last year’s Usports national championships.
Success, it can be argued, is a double-edged sword. Attain it and doors will open, sponsorship deals will appear and there will be better media coverage and better recruits.
It’s not that simple though, with success comes pressure, expectation and extra scrutiny.
Once people taste success for the first time they want more. Though TRU didn’t win a national championship, winning a bronze medal at the nationals was still an accomplishment given the program’s history.
For the TRU men’s soccer team, expectations will be high, after a season where they exceeded expectations by winning a bronze medal at nationals, there will be pressure for them to replicate that form.
This is something head coach John Antulov, is aware of and something which he feels won’t affect him or the team heading into the new season.
Antulov expressed the importance of maintaining a high level of performance and creating a sense of continuity.
When asked about what kind of season would be qualified as a success, Antulov said he wants to make it to the playoffs again.
“Making the playoffs, being in the final four, I think that is a key thing we need to do and we definitely have the team to do that,” he said.
Antulov acknowledged that the departures from last year would be huge loses, but he reiterated his faith in the players currently on the roster.
Antulov also expressed the fact that his current crop of WolfPack players are hungry for leadership positions and are ready to lead a new roster of players.
From a tactical point-of-view, Antulov admitted to flirting with the idea of playing a three-man backline, but stated that at this point it is just an idea more than anything else.
When it came to how the team plans to deal with the pressure and expectations, Antulov was pretty confident.
“I have always wanted to win wherever I have been as a coach or player,” he said. “I don’t think there is any extra pressure for us, I think the idea is just to continue on where we are going and I think the guys have the right mindset going into the season.”
Mitch Popadynetz is a player who continues to improve and get better and if TRU is going to make the final four he will have to be at his absolute best. The system with which TRU plays him in will be crucial.
“I think freeing up Mitch a little bit will be important. Mitch is a very good team player and works very much in the structure of the team and what we do,” Antulov said. “Mitch has the capabilities for us to let him do whatever he wants offensively, whilst remembering his defensive responsibilities.”
Overall there is a lot of positive energy coming out of the men’s soccer team heading into the season.
Expectations will be high and if TRU can establish each player’s specific role and create a strong identity and way of playing them, then meeting expectations won’t be a problem.