Despite the crisp passes, intense physical fitness and deep team unity from the 20 players at the men’s club soccer team practice, an unsettling absence of someone has the team in a unique position: they don’t have a coach.
Senior captain and team president Dale Dexter has taken control of the practice. He set up boundary markers for a keep away drill and his voice can be heard alongside the other captains, shouting out things like “keep the ball down” or “talk to the person you’re passing the ball to.”
“(The team) is kind of run by everyone,” Dexter said. “I’m not really like a coach, but I handle the financing and scheduling more.”
The lack of an actual coach isn’t hurting the club’s recent success, as they are looking to improve on their 8-2-2 record from the 2009 season. The team also finished seventh of 45 in the final rankings of Midwest schools in the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association and made their first regional championship tournament appearance.
“We’re actually one of the few club teams left without a coach that’s paid for the position. What we’re able to accomplish with that considered is pretty impressive,” Dexter said.
The lack of a coach can hurt with game plans for other teams, but on a club sports level, low finances or lack of equipment for game tapes makes more conventional coaching techniques irrelevant.
“It’s all about the resources we have,” Dexter said. “Honestly since I’ve been here, a lot of the teams have been at the same skill level. We can judge by (our opponents’) records and other teams they’ve played against to see how good they can be.”
Fourteen players are returning from last year’s roster, including goalkeeper Aric Bekaert. The club feels that the junior’s presence will be a strength for the ’Cats.
Graduate student and midfield Joe Gillespie said it’s good to have a seasoned goalie this year, as opposed to previous seasons.
“The last three years, we’ve had three different goalies,” Gillespie said. “Now that (Bekaert is) coming back we can work with him more in practice. I feel pretty comfortable about him being in net.”
Gillespie said another strength for the team will be the defense.
“We have the most experience in defense,” Gillespie said. “The last couple years have been the same defense and everyone knows where to move and how each other are going to play.”
The team runs a standard 4-4-2 offensive scheme, where four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards are on the field. The midfielders are then broken up into two smaller groups, as two outer players watch the sidelines while the other two take on either an attacking or defending role over the center of the pitch.
“(The midfielders) are really playing the position, but by putting the title on (the position), we keep them where they’re supposed to be,” Dexter said. “They can rotate too, if one is more fitted to defend against a particular player on another team, then they can do that.”
The 12-game schedule is highlighted by a trip downstate for non-divisional games against Ferris State and Grand Valley on Sept. 25 and 26, and a double header against UW-Stevens Point and UW-Stout on Saturday Oct. 2. The season opener for the team will be against rival Michigan Tech Huskies on Saturday, Sept. 4. The game is scheduled for 3 p.m., but may be delayed depending on the length of the varsity women’s game against Concordia-St. Paul.
Dexter said he’s expecting the game against Tech to be close, even though the Wildcats have always come out on top.
“We’ve never lost to Tech before,” Dexter said. “We come out and give it our all, but we know they will too. Hopefully we get a lot of people to come out and put on a show and beat Tech.”