Men’s and women’s soccer dominant to open season

Coach Colm McFeely and the rest of the Occidental women's soccer team sit on the sidelines at Jack Kemp Stadium at Occidental College in Los Angeles, on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. Kathy Ou/The Occidental

Fall 2018 has proved to be a successful season for Occidental soccer, with both the women’s and men’s teams posting winning records so far. Women’s soccer claimed the first place ranking in SCIAC following their recent win against the University of La Verne. Men’s soccer currently retains a 70 percent win rate, according to Oxy athletics statistics, and won 2–0 at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, a previously undefeated team, Sept. 29. Players Ethan Glass, Katherine Kim, Rachel Kolpa and Scott Drazan acknowledged the great potential for this season for Oxy soccer, with head coaches Radames “Rod” Lafaurie and Colm McFeely airing similar sentiments. These individuals agree that success is about more than scoring goals — it comes down to a prevailing mentality based on a belief in collectivism and hard work.

Ethan Glass (senior), captain and outside midfielder on the men’s team, is confident in the ability and the synergy of the team this season.

“Everything comes down to our family mentality,” Glass said. “On the team, we’re all best friends, we’re all brothers, and because of that, we’re best friends on the field, best friends off the field, and it’s just probably the most cohesive unit I’ve ever been with.”

Glass is positive this mentality will carry the team to further successes this season.

“I think the team is going to continue thriving,” Glass said. “Continue hitting our stride, improving. We have tons of potential, and we only have upwards from here to go.”

To Katherine Kim (senior), a forward and outside back who has been on the women’s soccer team for all four of her years at Occidental, cohesion has to do with a common understanding and a shared objective.

“One of the more important things, in my opinion, is just that everyone is there for the right reason, that everyone wants to be there because they love to play soccer, because they want to play and represent our school,” Kim said. “I think part of cohesiveness is also having an understanding of your teammates, working well together and working towards the same goal. Sharing that winning mindset, but also knowing that you can’t get to our goal without working together.”

Devoney Amberg (junior), right, maintains possession of the ball at Jack Kemp Stadium in Occidental College in Los Angeles, on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. Kathy Ou/The Occidental

Kim is confident their bond as a team will only grow stronger throughout the season.

“I think the more and more we play with each other, the better things will get,” Kim said. “But I think it’s a lot to do with our culture, and it’s only going to keep growing in a positive direction.”

Rachel Kolpa (sophomore), center forward on women’s soccer, also stressed the importance of a common aim as a team.

[A cohesive team] shares a main goal,” Kolpa said. “Everyone wants to win, everyone wants to work hard and play well. I think that’s kind of how you get a winning team, is having a group of people who are in it to win it, who are willing to give their all.”

According to Kolpa, collective hard work culminates into the winning mentality that leads to victory.

“I think we’re just on a trajectory to success right now, honestly,” Kolpa said. “If we keep the work rate we have right now, we can be really successful this season.”

Scott Drazan (sophomore) is a goalkeeper who agrees that a shared goal is the key to success.

“We all know that this year could be special,” Drazan said. “And we’re all in the same mindset right now to succeed.”

According to Drazan, his vision for success this season takes men’s soccer to the championships.

“I think we can definitely go to SCIACs at this point, get into the playoffs,” Drazan said. “And everyone thinks that we can win SCIACs this year. So the goal is to go to the NCAA tournament and, at the minimum, get to SCIACs.”

According to men’s head coach Radames “Rod” Lafaurie and women’s head coach Colm McFeely, this season presents great opportunities for their respective teams. According to both coaches, success in these opportunities requires a close-knit team with a steadfast and hard-working mentality.

Coach Lafaurie said team cohesion is the most critical factor when it comes to winning games.

“The ability to stay together physically and emotionally has been the key in winning and losing,” Laufaurie said. “In moments where we’ve lost goals or lost a game, there’s just been a few moments of a lack of cohesion, so a lack of connectedness.”

In addition to collectiveness, Lafaurie emphasized the significance of a certain mental fortitude required to win.

“Mental toughness is probably the easier way to say it,” Lafaurie said. “But we call it our ‘grit.’ Those are the important factors of making a team work, because you have to keep doing whatever it takes no matter what to help the group, and that takes mental toughness.”

Coach Lafaurie is ultimately positive the team’s grit and unit cohesion will continue to lead them to success as the year progresses.

“This team is gonna be a handful for everybody, every night,” Lafaurie said. “And we’re gonna get to the places that we deserve to get to. We’re going to be there at the end, and we are one of the top teams not only in our conference, but in the country. In terms of projections, we’ll leave that to actual actions. As long as we’re our best every day, we’re better than everyone else.”

McFeely highlights that success on and off the field can be attributed to a hard-working toughness, yet more importantly to the cultivation of a strong duty to community within the team.

“We’re seeing a team that are really knitting together nicely. A group that really bonded together, that are coming together, there’s a purposeful direction in that,” McFeely said. “If the individual works hard, it improves the next player alongside you, it improves the team overall. And we are looking at things that are bigger than self, what do you want to leave behind when you go out of here, what’s your legacy?”

According to McFeely, these aspects of teamwork present in Oxy soccer are what allow them to persevere despite all obstacles.

“We see that in this squad, they’re a really feisty, competitive group of women and I think it’s shown that we can do this against almost anybody.”