Tough inaugural year for Maverick men’s soccer

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November 21st, 2011

Omaha, NE – Most would consider an 11-loss season…unpleasant. But that’s how the University of Nebraska Omaha’s inaugural men’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.

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Walk-on Craig Buettner scored the teams only goal in the final game of the season against Stetson. (Photo courtesy UNO Athletics)

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 haven’t seen the UNO men’s soccer team on the field might be surprised by Coach Jason Mims’ attitude after finishing 1-11-1 on the year.

“The spirit (was) amazing for a team that only won one game and had a huge losing streak,” Mims said. “Every compliment we got from every opposing coach after the game and emails afterwards was ‘Your team has great spirit about them’ and I think that is great to hear in a team that is losing games.”

Coach Mims’ enthusiasm for the program he wants to construct is infectious. An accomplished soccer program on a metropolitan campus with support and resources is what he’s aiming for, and he believes he can take the Mavericks to the next level. He gushes about his team’s competitiveness and strength of mind.

“I think it’s the way they worked, the way they were coachable, the way they listened,” Mims said. “It was outstanding, whether it was the first 10 minutes of the game or last 10 minutes of the game.”

Logan Mendez was rewarded another year of eligibility because of his early season injury. (Photo courtesy UNO Athletics)

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.

“So obviously looking back at it, it was nice,” Mims said. “I’m glad they got one positive result out of it.”

“Even though the year wasn’t about results,” he added, “for 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.”

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 didn’t affect the team this year as much as it could have. The reason: the team’s determination to get better, and the players’ 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.

“It’s got to be the right fit,” Mims said. “It’s still about building a culture here.”

“Our culture is starting to be shaped,” he said. “We want good young men, disciplined kids, good students, guys that are competitive.”

Mims said the recruits need to “fit that mold,” and he said he won’t “sacrifice character…just because he is talented on the soccer field.”

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 doesn’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.
“If we score 30 goals in practice, he scores 29 of them. He is the guy who scores goals for us,” Mims said.
Mims said Mendez has potential, particularly as a “Nebraska kid.”

“My experience with the Nebraska kids (is) they are usually hard working, blue-collar type kids,” Mims said. “But, usually, you don’t find a lot of talented attacking kids from Nebraska.” Finding a striker like Mendez in the Midwest is rare, Mims said. “He has got the right mindset, that’s really important for young players. He is driven and wants to succeed.”

Overall Mims says he was pleased with the results of the season, mostly because of the attitude they exemplified. “They fought and worked, and fought and worked, and fought and worked, and they never gave up.”

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