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NSU men’s soccer team sets school records

Published 11/30/17

Valeriia Efimenko

TNE Writer

After a rocky start, the NSU men’s soccer team picked it up and made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. Last time the team made it to nationals in 2012. It was a good accomplishment this year to be back at the highest level at the NCAA DII level.

“I think we really shocked a lot of people at nationals,” said Julius James, junior midfielder from Moore. “Many didn’t even expect to make it there, given the circumstances of last semester. I feel we were a little disappointed with the outcome and not making it all of the way. It is something to grow from. The younger guys now know what it’s like to be in the tourney.”

The soccer team is a team of young members who can learn a lot about the game from a point of view outside of America. It is common for the international players to help with the technical and skill sides of the game.

“The culmination of the competitiveness between each other at practice, the desire to grow as individuals and collectively and just knowing when you step out on the field that you have a group of brothers that have your back makes our team successful,” said James. “I love all the guys on the squad. Waking up in the morning for practice can be draining, but these guys make it worth every minute. We all enjoy hanging out together and having a good time and I think that’s what helps make it worthwhile.”

This season, team members new and old gelled well. They knew how each player acted on the field, which made it easier to play. There was key leadership from experienced players, too.

“Everyone on the team looks at me like their big brother, and everyone respects me,” said Nikolai Solomon, senior forward from St. James, Trinidad and Tobago. “I am also one of the oldest players, so I usually teach and help when I can or when I am not injured.” 

In the recruiting process, coaches look at every option. The most important things they look for are speed and athleticism. NSU men’s soccer brought in seven new players this year. New players came from as far as Zimbabwe and as close as Broken Arrow.

“It is important to find good soccer players,” said Rob Czlonka, NSU men’s soccer head coach. “What is more important is to find good people. If you can bring more good people, then you have a good team. It is important to be good at sports, but it is more impactful if they are good people. When you bring a bad person, it can disrupts the team.”

Each coach has their own way of motivating players. Throughout this season, Czlonka inspired his players with quotes from other successful individuals.

“I did quotes from businessmen and businesswomen, athletes, coaches and even political figures,” said Czlonka. “All of them focused on the same philosophy, which is we have to work harder than everybody else, we have to believe in ourselves. Anybody who says we cannot, we need to push that to the side and prove it wrong. Everything has been built around those three things this year.”

One of the goals set for this season was to beat Fort Hays, the team’s rival. Anything beyond that was a bonus.

“We started off focusing on each game at a time and on being successful at each game,” said Czlonka. “However, we started off really poorly. We had three losses in a row right away, but all of them were tight close games. We ended up having a bunch of wins in a row and setting some school records. I think those are things that we did not focus on. It just came as part of our ‘working hard one game at a time’ process. I am very pleased with this season. I think we have overachieved. We wanted to be competitive and be number one in the region. It was very important. The goal for next year is to make it to Final Four at nationals, so we are going to start getting ready for that next semester.”

The players have already set their personal goals for next semester, as well. James said his main goal is to recognize they have a target on their back now and a reputation of being a quality group.

“For those reasons, we will have to look back at this season,” said James. “We will have to find out our strengths and weaknesses and then build off those accordingly. I think the biggest thing though is recognizing the true potential we have collectively and trying to exploit that as best as we can.”

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