Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Colleges: Lions men getting back to full strength

SAINT LEO – While it hasn’t been quite on the same scale as its women’s team, the Saint Leo men’s soccer team hasn’t been having the best go of it in the health department either.

Thankfully, though, for Coach Joel Harrison, the Lions have almost their full squad back after the flu gradually made its way through the locker room.

According to Harrison, the illnesses started popping up after the trip to Georgia Southwestern State. At one point the squad was reduced to only 14 players at training, and the Lions had to play with a vastly shorter bench than normal. That affected the team’s preparation leading into its games last week against Flagler and Rollins.

Now he has all but two of three members of the 30-man roster available, meaning the Lions can incorporate 11-on-11 work into practice again, something Harrison said helps a great deal.

“In practice, you work on pieces, you take pieces of the game and work on it, and you want to be able to put that into a full-sided game at the end,” Harrison said. “We could work on the bits and pieces, but we couldn’t put it into the full-sided to make sure that everyone was getting it worked on in an 11-on-11 match.”

Now the Lions face Eckerd on Tuesday night before hosting Florida Tech on Saturday night. The Lions are currently on a three-game losing streak, but Harrison is focused on what lies ahead for his team.

“For us we’re just focusing, I know its cliché-ish, but we’re focusing on one game at a time,” he said. “You can’t predict the future, and you can’t go back and change the past, so you focus on the next match and go out and do the best we can.”

MAKING A MARK: Freshman Erik Mozzo hasn’t been shy about making his presence felt, something that has made Harrison very happy with his young goalkeeper.

“Sometimes freshmen don’t want to tell upperclassmen what to do,” Harrison said, “but as a goalkeeper he’s stepped right in and he knows it doesn’t matter what year I am in school, I’ve got to talk to the guys in front of me to tell them what I want.”

Mozzo, from Beaufort, S.C., has already earned a Sunshine State Conference defensive player of the week award, and has quickly earned the trust of the rest of the team. Harrison said his play isn’t a surprise, because when the team brought him in for tryouts, as Division II schools are allowed to in recruiting, he was exactly the same way.

“He was back there, he never kept anything to himself,” Harrison said. “We’ve reinforced that he’s got to continue doing that, but he was already doing that.”

STEPPING UP: The absences caused by injuries meant that some new faces got chances to contribute to the side, and Harrison is pleased with what he has seen from many of them.

“Cody Allen has done very well,” Harrison said. “He’s a kid who in his first two years didn’t play a lot, and has stepped in and done very well.”

Three freshmen have also caught the coach’s eye, with Matt Stewart, Jason Manaras and Michael Panter all finding themselves on the field at key points of recent games. Harrison said he thought Panter did very well after being brought on late against Rollins as he provided dangerous crosses into the Tars penalty area when the Lions were looking for an equalizer.

“We’ve had a couple of younger guys that haven’t played a lot,” Harrison said. “But when they’ve got in they’ve done well and are starting to get a feel for college soccer.”

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