University soccer teams have traveled as far as Alabama and Missouri to play tough and challenging games during their preseason.
The John Brown University men and women’s soccer teams finished their pre-season games mid-September at the Alumni Field. The men’s team lost 4-1 to Oklahoma Wesleyan University, who ranked third in the nation at the time. The women’s team defeated No. 14 OKWU 1-0.
This was not the first time the women’s team beat a high ranking team. On Thursday, Sept. 6, the team traveled to Orange Beach, Alabama and first played the University of Mobile, the twelfth ranked team. They won the game 3-2 after sophomore Sienna Nelson scored with 12 seconds left in regulation.
Kristen Howell, senior family and human services major, said they played the game with nothing to lose, which is why they beat the two highly competitive teams. After beating Mobile, they played second-ranked William Carey University, beating them 2-1 in overtime.
Howell said the team formed a bond during pre-season. On some of these trips, head coach Kathleen Paulsen makes sure they are unplugged with no cell phones, Apple watches or other devices that might distract them from building deeper relationships with one another, Howell said.
Jastin Redman, a senior kinesiology major, said the coaching staff focuses on the team members as individuals, more than just as soccer players. One way they do this is by developing a theme for their season.
One of this year’s themes is to humbly pursue the Lord and others. Redman said that humble pursuit looks like reaching out to students in the cafeteria, around campus and on the field.
“On our team, we take steps every day by working hard in practice and not cutting corners,” Redman said. “[It means] just working hard for the betterment of our team, the betterment of ourselves and ultimately the betterment for Christ.”
This theme has helped them with the season, Redman said. “We’ve won games through our hard work. In Orange Beach, we probably weren’t the best team, but we were definitely the hardest working team.”
The men’s team also develops goals and themes for their year. Collin Smith, a graduate student at JBU and a senior on the men’s team, said their ultimate goal is to glorify Christ on and off the field. Smith said they do that by treating refs, opponents and other teammates with respect.
“We’re really imperfect at doing that and some games we lose our cool and we say things and do things that don’t honor Christ,” he said. “But this group is really unique because the majority of guys want to hold each other accountable to that, so it’s pretty cool to see guys challenge each other.”
This group of guys currently has a record of 3-3-1. Even though they have not won as many games as they would like, Smith said they are looking forward to getting on a higher level, performing better and improving each day.
“We’re more interested in improving and getting better because once conference starts, we want to compete in that and finish top of the conference.”
Senior Ryan Williams said that even through the losses, the team is still coming together, closer than what winning might allow.
“There’s a desire from every single player to work as hard as they can every single day,” Williams said. “Though they may have a hard day at school, or whatever else is going on, there’s a desire to give their very best for the team.”