November 23, 2012
SLOW START, FAST FINISH
From 5-0 opening loss to a dangerous NCAA road team
By Michael Lewis
|Goalkeeper Jacob Lissek has a 0.93 GAA and 10 shutouts.
Photo courtesy of FDU SID
Nothing like a 5-0 home drubbing in your season opener to a decent team to give your team a much-needed wake-up call.
That's exactly what happened to the Fairleigh Dickinson University men's team to Stony Brook on Aug. 24.
FDU coach Seth Roland felt there was no reason to panic, but it was a reminder the Knights had a long, long way to go.
On Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, the Knights take on the University of North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I men's soccer tournament after stunning 18th-ranked St. John's in the opener and eighth-seeded Saint Louis, both times on the road.
After dropping its season opener by five goals, however, the NCAA's were the last thing on Roland's mind.
"It was like, 'Guys, anyone who might have thought that we're a pretty good team is getting a little bit ahead of themselves because we have an awful lot to work on,' " Roland said. "So, the first half of the season we challenged ourselves with a pretty tough no conference schedule for a reason.
"We had a lot of wrinkles to iron out. But once we started to iron them out, we started to gain confidence -- the ability to pressure teams, we knew we were able to keep the ball and control the tempo against a lot of teams."
But until then the Knights were inconsistent. They struggled, giving up 16 goals in eight games en route to a 3-4-1 mark.
"We were just bleeding goals," said Roland, who realized he wasn't going to solve the problem overnight.
It was up to FDU to play team defense. It started with a 2-1 home win over Long Island University on Sept. 28. That turned out to be the start of a nine-game unbeaten streak in which the Knights recorded a 6-0-3 record, registering six consecutive shutouts, keeping their foes off the score sheet for more than 650 minutes and allowing two goals during that span. The streak ended with a 3-0 defeat at Quinnipiac on Nov. 4, the last time they lost.
"One step at a time, one half out a half, one game at a time, you start preventing the goals." he said. "You gain a little bit of confidence. It just kept building. It just snowballed to where, 'Hey, we've got a shutout. Great. We got a clean sheet. We got a second clean sheet in a row.' That's great stuff.
"Then you're up to six clean sheets, including two or three games in overtime. We took a lot of pride on how we defend as a team. It's easier said than done against teams like St. John's or Saint Louis, which scored 45 goals going into our games, in 20 games. Forty-five goals. We're now going up against North Carolina. It's easier said than done."
FDU will try to make it three successive NCAA Division I road wins, which would be a rare feat.
"We believe that we can do it," Roland said. "We have to defend well. We have to keep the ball well and we have to take advantage of the moments that we can."