In a similar position as many other teams, the Greenville University’s Men’s Soccer Team is preparing to kick off their season this spring, which is quite a shift from their usual fall schedule. With practices beginning, their first scrimmage will be against The University of Illinois, Springfield and will be held on February 13th at Greenville University. Conference play starts for the Panthers on March 10th against Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri. Going into the season, the team will have a total of ten conference games, five non-conference games, and one scrimmage, which means they will have sixteen regular-season games.
When asked about the difficulties that his team will face this year, Head Coach Chris Swift proudly responds, “I think that they have proved in the fall they are resilient and have what it takes to be a very good team. Many distractions and things have gone on, and they’ve handled them very well. I also feel that the season being in the spring won’t affect the team because of the leadership the team has.” Leadership is a keyword for the program, especially since six seniors graduated last year. With the absence of these seniors, the program will be missing some players that were essential for last year’s success. While the team has lost some key positions on the field, Swift is not too worried. The program brought in a huge recruiting class in an attempt to soften the losses of key players. In total, there are nearly twenty-four freshman and transfer players, which brings the total number of team members to forty-five.
While the team has many members, they still rely on key leaders to strengthen the program. Swift comments, “Even though the team is young, the players really hold each other accountable.” Some of the leaders that Swift identifies are Jared McPeek and Napoleon Urquidi. Both of these players greatly contributed to last season’s success, and they were only sophomores then. Now, as juniors this year, Swift expects McPeek and Urquidi to continue to grow and push their teammates to another successful season.
Asking Urquidi about this season, he says, “The changes of this season have brought the guys closer. Throughout this time, the team needs a leader they can count on, and I try to be that guy. On last year’s team, we had outstanding leaders, and that’s one reason why our season was good. Because last year’s leaders set the bar so high for us, I’m trying to bring really high expectations and accountability to the table for my teammates for this upcoming season in the spring.” Also, he discusses how he tries to set a good example so that his team knows they can count on him on and off the field. Urquidi continues, “I try to maintain good grades, be on time to class, and have a positive attitude, regardless if things are good or bad.” The Panthers went 10-9 last season with six wins and three losses in conference play. They also made it to post-season play, but they fell short in the first round.