In a season full of expected and unexpected change for both the men’s and women’s soccer programs, both programs have hit the ground running and achieved early success.
The 2017 fall campaigns have seen both teams inherit new head coaches, and adjust to life playing soccer not on their true home field.
Jason Carlson joined the men’s team after coaching at Upper Iowa University. During his time in the Midwest, Carlson led Upper Iowa to an overall record of 39-27-5, and the program’s first conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015. Carlson’s accomplishments in 2015 helped him earn the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association and Central Region Coach-of-the-Year awards.
Senior captain Carl Spansk said Carlson has increased team unity during his short time at FSC.
“Coach Jason brings a new confidence to the team,” Spansk said. “He wants to hear the opinions of his players, so we all feel involved in decision making and we feel like he trusts us with responsibility. Jason is really setting up a great environment for the best ideas come through and to improve as a team.”
Although the teams have adjusted well to their new leaders thus far, the start of the season has not come without frustrating and unexpected obstacles.
Both teams will be playing a majority of their home games this season at the Lake Myrtle Sports Park in Auburndale because the Barnett Athletic Complex is not completed.
The complex’s completion has been bogged down since its inception as a result of weather delays and other unforeseen setbacks. Construction crews are working to finish the complex as soon as possible without a firm deadline. The complex was originally set to be completed in early September.
Junior captain of the women’s team Gaelyn Crowder said the setback has been a troublesome obstacle to overcome, but it has not significantly fazed the team.
“It’s obviously annoying,” Crowder said. “It’s not fun that it takes 30 minutes to get there and back every day for practice, but so far everyone has really done a good job about staying positive about it and staying positive that our stadium will be finished by the end of the season.”
It is the first time in school history both soccer teams will not play at Barnett Field.
Despite not playing at its true home, the men’s team had a bright start to the 2017 season. In his first game in two years, Romain Voirin scored two goals and assisted another to lead the Mocs to a 4-1 win over Shorter University at Lake Myrtle. Voirin sat out all of last season because of a torn ACL.
Spansk has said Voirin’s value stretches well beyond his ability to score goals, but more goals are certainly welcome.
“He’s an important piece to our midfield with a lot of the play going through him, but I’d say that his greatest attribute is his aggressiveness and his ability to win the ball back for us in the midfield,” Spansk said. “It’s also a great surprise to us that he can score goals as well, and we hope to see him keep up his current points per game ratio.”
The Mocs followed up their first win with another win against North Greenville University. A brace from Rene Rivera and an Edward Spansk goal lifted the men’s team over North Greenville, 3-1.
The women’s team also kicked off its season on a positive note. On the team’s second-ever trip to the state of North Carolina, FSC walked away with a 3-0 win over the University of Mount Olive and a 0-0 tie against Chowan University.
The back-to-back shutouts to open the season marked the first time ever in team history the Mocs started the season with back-to-back shutouts.
Following those two performances, senior left-back Jess Goedde won Sunshine State Conference Defensive Player-of-the-Week. It was her first SSC award, and the first award for any women’s player in three years since Aubrey Riggins was awarded Offensive Player-of-the-Week in 2014.
Goedde is one of four returning starters from last year’s defensive line along with Crowder, Juliana Guida and goalkeeper Helena Norrstrom. Crowder says the strong defensive efforts thus far have stemmed from the back line’s unity and understanding between one another, and she is so relived to see the defense be recognized for its efforts.
“We were all so happy for Jess when she won player-of-the-week because as a team we have felt that our defense has always been one of the strongest in the conference,” Crowder said. “We were so excited to see that other coaches/teams are starting to notice what we have always felt is true, that our defensive efforts are a trademark of Florida Southern Women’s Soccer. I think a lot of our success so far this year has definitely come from our experience and cohesion combined.”
The team’s early success is somewhat unusual in recent memory. The women’s team finished with a record of 2-9-2. However, for new head coach Paul Lawrence, rebuilding a program is not foreign territory.
Lawrence previously coached at Knox College in Illinois. Before Lawrence arrived at Knox, the Prairie Fire had not had a winning record in 18 years.
During his time at Knox, Lawrence transformed the program and led the team to its first Midwest Conference regular season and tournament titles in 2016. Lawrence also led the team to its first NCAA Division III Tournament appearance in program history.
Lawrence finished with a 35-20-3 record as head coach of Knox. Despite his instant success at Knox, Lawrence said he was in search of a new challenge.
“I like a challenge, and I wanted to come a program that needed to be rebuilt,” Lawrence said. “I like that aspect of being able to come in and recruit and bring success to a program that has not had in many years, and I felt this conference was going to be a unique place to work.”
The men’s team will be back in action against Saint Leo University on Sept. 23 at the Lake Myrtle Sports Park at 7 p.m. The women’s team will hit the road to take on Saint Leo on Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.