Tough inaugural year for Maverick men’s soccer
November 21st, 2011
Omaha, NE – Most would consider an 11-loss seasonâ€¦unpleasant. But thatâ€™s how the University of Nebraska Omahaâ€™s inaugural menâ€™s soccer season ended up. It kicked off fast and ended with a dud. KVNO News‘ Brandon McDermott had a chance to sit down with Head Coach Jason Mims to review the season and look ahead to next year.
Coach Mims says UNO started the year with no idea what lay before them, and it proved to be a rollercoaster. It was a process that forced many freshmen into the fire of Division I soccer. Those who havenâ€™t seen the UNO menâ€™s soccer team on the field might be surprised by Coach Jason Mimsâ€™ attitude after finishing 1-11-1 on the year.
â€œThe spirit (was) amazing for a team that only won one game and had a huge losing streak,â€ Mims said. â€œEvery compliment we got from every opposing coach after the game and emails afterwards was â€˜Your team has great spirit about themâ€™ and I think that is great to hear in a team that is losing games.â€
Coach Mimsâ€™ enthusiasm for the program he wants to construct is infectious. An accomplished soccer program on a metropolitan campus with support and resources is what heâ€™s aiming for, and he believes he can take the Mavericks to the next level. He gushes about his teamâ€™s competitiveness and strength of mind.
â€œI think itâ€™s the way they worked, the way they were coachable, the way they listened,â€ Mims said. â€œIt was outstanding, whether it was the first 10 minutes of the game or last 10 minutes of the game.â€
The Mavs did open the year with a win over the University of Missouri at Kansas City 2-1. But that turned out to be the only win of the year.
â€œSo obviously looking back at it, it was nice,â€ Mims said. â€œIâ€™m glad they got one positive result out of it.â€
â€œEven though the year wasnâ€™t about results,â€ he added, â€œfor those guys to look back and say they won their very first ever game, and won the first Division I game in UNO history, they will always be able to look back on that.â€
UNO endured a stretch of nine straight losses, including a section of seven games where they did not score a single goal. One obvious reason why, other than the youth UNO brought in, was the size of the roster, according to Mims. And roster size will be a priority going forward. On a normal Division I soccer team, there are anywhere from 22 to 35 players on the roster. UNO had 17. But according to Mims, that didnâ€™t affect the team this year as much as it could have. The reason: the teamâ€™s determination to get better, and the playersâ€™ abilities to put their heads down and push through any adversity they faced.
Mims says even though his team worked well as a unit and demonstrated great team work, recruiting will be pivotal for the Mavs during the off-season.
â€œItâ€™s got to be the right fit,â€ Mims said. â€œItâ€™s still about building a culture here.â€
â€œOur culture is starting to be shaped,â€ he said. â€œWe want good young men, disciplined kids, good students, guys that are competitive.â€
Mims said the recruits need to â€œfit that mold,â€ and he said he wonâ€™t â€œsacrifice characterâ€¦just because he is talented on the soccer field.â€
One player who will still be part of that culture next year is key freshman forward Logan Mendez. The Mavs suffered a setback when Mendez tweaked his hamstring before the year began, and injured it further at the beginning of the year. Mendez was granted a medical hardship by the NCAA. That means he doesnâ€™t lose a year of eligibility in lieu of his injury and missing most of last season. Going into next season, Mendez will have four years of eligibility left. Mims says they would like to continue to build the team around Mendez.
â€œIf we score 30 goals in practice, he scores 29 of them. He is the guy who scores goals for us,â€ Mims said.
Mims said Mendez has potential, particularly as a â€œNebraska kid.â€
â€œMy experience with the Nebraska kids (is) they are usually hard working, blue-collar type kids,â€ Mims said. â€œBut, usually, you donâ€™t find a lot of talented attacking kids from Nebraska.â€ Finding a striker like Mendez in the Midwest is rare, Mims said. â€œHe has got the right mindset, thatâ€™s really important for young players. He is driven and wants to succeed.â€
Overall Mims says he was pleased with the results of the season, mostly because of the attitude they exemplified. â€œThey fought and worked, and fought and worked, and fought and worked, and they never gave up.â€
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