Spring practices give college programs an opportunity to build unity and camaraderie, not just work on tactics and skills.
The New Mexico men’s soccer team accomplished that in their recently completed spring sessions, Jeremy Fishbein, Lobo head coach, said Friday. In fact, he said developing cohesiveness was his first priority.
“I think we accomplished that,” he said. “Leaders emerged. A sense of pride and camaraderie really developed. We were able to spend a lot of time on technical aspects, functionally by position, and a large number of tactics.”
Fishbein said it’s difficult to give a full assessment how much the players developed until the fall season starts in August, but the Lobos established a framework to build upon for the preseason forward. It helps, he said, since that window is short. The team gets roughly two and a half weeks before the first preseason game on Aug. 18.
The Lobos do have some holes to fill in the midfield and defensive ends after four players – defender Kyle Venter, goalkeeper Michael Lisch, and midfielders Michael Kafari and Michael Calderon – graduated. All four were drafted into the MLS following UNM’s run to the NCAA College Cup semifinals.
“That’s always the big thing. Every year you’ve got guys leaving,” defender Matthew Gibbons said. “That’s what the spring is about. It’s finding a new identity, filling roles.”
In net, Fishbein said the team hasn’t missed a beat with Patrick Poblete replacing Lisch. UNM played Nick Rochowski and Chris Gruele at the back during the spring alongside Nick Miele at the center back position. Fishbein acknowledged those players aren’t Venter, a key defender, but believes that unit will be strong in the central defense.
The team has options in the midfield to replace Kafari and Calderon. Ben McKendry played a little bit deeper, Fishbein said, and Josh Dye had a great spring. Oniel Fisher can be used at the position, while Adrian Mora Delgado returned toward the end of the spring after missing 2013 to a knee injury.
UNM will return some of its speed on the attacking end, and Fishbein said Josh Goss has progressed quite a bit in the spring.
“We feel really good about it,” Fishbein said. “It’s just probably best not to read into too much of it. We have to trust the guys are going to do what they need to do in three months (over the summer), really. I have complete confidence in them.”
Six seniors will return to the squad for their final seasons: Poblete, Miele, Fisher, Gibbons, defender Riley McGovern and forward/midfielder James Rogers. Gibbons said that the spring gave the guys a chance to step into some new roles, especially in leadership.
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Yet, even with some of the changes, some things remain the same, he said.
“A lot of talented young guys, they’re all driven, share the same goal,” Gibbons said. “It’s looking good. It’s always the same type of motivation and drive in the guys. That never changes here. That’s embedded in the program.”