The Cal men’s soccer team has made a fast start to the 2013 NCAA season, going 4-0-1 with wins over powerhouses Georgetown and Maryland as well as San Francisco and Colgate. However, the Golden Bears are keen to stress that while they have made a good start, there is still work to be done.
The team’s Head Coach Kevin Grimes has been pleased with his squad’s efforts so far, but is especially keen that they keep their concentration as the season goes on, despite what has been a promising opening four weeks that has seen them leap to #3 in the NSCAA rankings.
“We certainly would like to continue to improve week to week on all aspects of the team,” Grimes said. “We’re only four weeks into the regular season and I don’t think we have peaked by any stretch of the imagination. I think individual and team improvement are really critical this week, to improve as a squad.
“To stay focused, I think that’s the most important thing. To stay focused on ourselves and to use that is really our best ammunition.”
Despite the 3-0 win over Colgate on September 20 to continue their unbeaten start, Grimes knows that there are plenty of tough tests ahead for his players. However, the way that they have all taken responsibility and all been invested in shaping the direction of the team is a major positive for the Golden Bears.
“I think more than anything the collective leadership across the team has been very strong. I also think that last season the team was so close to making the postseason, we probably missed out by one victory.
“I think that had a lasting effect on them when we came back in January for the spring semester, knowing that we were so close to making the Tournament and not getting in was a pretty bitter taste in our mouths. So there’s certainly some hunger and some intensity there that the players have each and every time on the field. They want to continue to have that throughout the rest of the season.”
In particular, Grimes has been especially impressed with the work of his returning players, who have ensured that the team’s eight freshmen recruits have been instantly aware of what is expected of them as a Cal soccer player.
“The [senior players] have been dynamite. The leadership all across the board has been fantastic. I think the players have done a great job of mentoring the incoming players. We’ve got eight incoming freshmen and the older guys have done a wonderful job of making it crystal clear what our culture is at Cal and what we’re all about and how important that team culture is to our results during the season. Certainly it’s paying dividends for us right now.”
With such a strong start and a team that has a great deal of experience and promise, Grimes believes that this year’s Golden Bears can go far, especially after the disappointment of missing the last two NCAA Tournaments.
“We’re really excited,” he added. “This is an older group, we’re a junior and senior-laden team. A lot of the starters have logged a lot of minutes and gotten a lot of starts over their careers.
“That is a great thing to have as a team, to be in a position where you’ve got experienced players all over the field, and that’s what we currently have right now. We’re really happy with that. If we can stay healthy and keep driving ourselves forward to keep improving, we certainly like this team’s chances.”
Cal next faces the College of Charleston on Sunday, September 22, hoping to maintain what has been a superb start to the season.
Chris Teale is a contributing writer for College Soccer News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @chris-teale