Men’s soccer charges to No. 1 in the nation for NCAA Division II

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The University of Indianapolis Men’s Soccer team is off to a solid start with a 5-0-1 win streak to kick off the season. According to United Soccer Coaches, the Hounds are ranked first in the nation for all of NCAA Division II.

“We want to be in that position,” Head Coach John Higgins said. “We don’t want to hide from it. In one aspect, we want to celebrate it, but in another we know there’s motivation for the opposition. We hope that those rankings fuel us to continue to keep being the best.”

Photo by MaKenna Maschino Senior midfielder Vincent Stone and senior attack Alejandro Steinwascher hug after a goal against the University of Southern Indiana. Steinwascher has four goals on the year.

The team has added Assistant Coach Gabe Hall who has an extensive coaching record according to UIndy Athletics. Hall spent time coaching at Marian University who he helped finish runner-up at the NAIA National Championship. He took Missouri S&T to the GLVC tournament each of his five years there. Hall coached at University of Dayton who he helped achieve a record of 11-5-3 before landing at UIndy. Hall was a former Greyhound serving as the soccer team’s starting goalkeeper for two seasons before transferring to San Francisco State University. The change in staff after four consistent years was a concern for Higgins, but he eventually saw it as an overall positive change and an opportunity for growth.

“The program has been consistently good for a long time and a lot of our core values have remained the same,” Higgins said. “We’ve turned it into a bit of a positive in terms of our group going back into a growth phase because we’ve got fresh ideas, fresh perspectives and new personalities.”

Last year, the team had many incoming freshmen who had to learn the ropes and acclimate themselves to the new environment. Senior attack Alejandro Steinwascher wants to do what seniors before him have and make the newcomers feel welcome.

“Last season, we had a lot of freshmen starting, but now those freshmen are sophomores,” Steinwascher said. “With the experience and depth we have, we should be really good this year.”

With being ranked first in the nation, players tend to be nervous and anxious going into games and tournaments. The Greyhounds, however, have managed to prevent that.

“Everybody wants to beat us,” Steinwascher said. “We try to go into games relaxed and calm. It is more about hitting our objectives for the game.”

Since he is a senior, Steinwascher has stepped into a leadership role and the others will follow his lead. Higgins has created a system that gives more power to the seniors where they express their goals to the rest of the team.

“As a coaching staff, we have really high expectations and demands for our players to set a certain level of pressure on the day-to-day,” Higgins said. “The weekend then becomes the best day of the week where our players can relax because we’ve already seen the worst case scenario in training sessions.”

The training itself also has to do with making the players feel more prepared because of the intensity. Higgins said that the training is intense and quick to where when it comes down to game day, everything slows down, and that if they are super prepared, there is no reason to lack confidence or have anxiety about how they perform. Higgins acknowledges that there is a fine balance he as a coach has to keep with the training.

Photo by Jacob Walton Junior back Makel Rasheed pushes the ball upfield in a match against the University of Southern Indiana. The Hounds scored three goals in the second half on 13 shots total.

“It’s a natural want for me to keep continuing to push to train hard,” Higgins said. “There’s a perception that the more you train, the more competition you are, but at the same time, there’s a trade-off between energy levels and making sure that we’re sharp.”

Since their fifth win against McKendree on Sept. 19, UIndy ranked No.1 in the nation for all NCAA DII men’s soccer. According to Higgins, he hopes their ranking makes the alumni proud.

“It’s been years and years of consistently being a good team that has really helped catapult us to number one,” Higgins said. “The ranking is really for everybody else to enjoy. For us it’s an increased workload, it’s an increased pressure on us to maintain that, but those are the standards within this program anyway.”

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