Junior Christian Rotter will look to help lead the Vikings back to the postseason. // Photo courtesy of WWU Athletics
By Grace Taylor
Starting August 13, opportunity awaits the touch of cleats as the Western men’s soccer team will be back out on Robert S. Harrington Field. The Vikings have reloaded their roster this season with ten new editions to the team.
A few key players were lost to graduation after last season, including captains Luke Olney and Tyler Visten. Olney’s seven points were tied for second on the team in the 2017-2018 season that saw the Vikings finish with a 6-6-5 overall record, missing the post-season conference tournament.
This season, the returning players are preparing to step up and help the newcomers flourish in a challenging Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
“I am really looking forward to this year, I have been looking forward to it ever since we ended last year,” junior forward Christian Rotter said. “Personally, I didn’t end the year how I wanted to and the team definitely didn’t, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there. We’ve got a good core group of guys from last year and some pieces coming in, so I’m excited to see what we’re going to do.”
The team must acclimate its new players quickly with two weeks of practice before the start of non-conference games and a four-match trip to California.
Head coach Greg Brisbon is putting in the hours in his office, planning for the season. He said he hopes to give the players a smooth and easy transition back into their fall schedules because every team in the conference will bring a challenge for the Vikings this season.
“We can get beat by anyone, but if we show up and play our game we can beat anyone,” Rotter said. “It’s nice knowing that because it keeps you in check. You know that you need to play your best every day or you will get beat.”
With a fresh squad, success will come down to controlling possession, learning to consistently play together, executing their skills and being mentally prepared on game day, Rotter said.
“We’re a family. I consider everyone a brother,” senior forward Jose Castillo said. “We fight, we argue, we yell at each other, but there’s no hard feelings. We push each other to be the best individuals we can be, both on and off the field. And I believe that will be key for us coming into the season.”
The Vikings had too many tied games and not enough wins last season, said Brisbon. The team outshot their opponents 251-204, but only managed a 26-24 edge in goals scored. Despite that, Brisbon is confident that if the team can fine-tune their defense and attacking, the 2018-2019 season will be a successful one.
Rotter said the tone of leadership will shift from being directed by team captains, as in past seasons, to a more collective group role.
“It’s not like you’re just turning to one or two guys,” Rotter said. “If someone isn’t on their game one day, anyone can call them out to step up. If everyone is open to doing that and you allow people to be who they are and really speak their voice, it can really help us.”
Brisbon spoke of the new sense of captaincy as a committee of leadership, where the older players will work to guide the 10 new players until set roles develop. Brisbon and Rotter are looking to veteran players like senior forward Stephen Jinneman, junior defender Jeremiah Lee, and senior defender Garrett Strawn for leadership.
“Not a day goes by where I don’t check the calendar to see how many days are left until the first day of pre-season. It’s the most exciting time of the year for me,” Castillo said. “You get to reunite with all your brothers after working so hard throughout the summer and finally get to put all the pieces together.”