With a history at Spring Creek and Wayne Country Day, new men’s soccer coach Jeff Sullivan rings in a new era as he sets his sights on not only turning Southern Wayne into a successful program, but as a youth pastor, he is also hoping to influence the student-athletes off the pitch as well.
The Saints finished 5-14 last season with a three-game losing streak to close out their season. Before Sullivan gets ahead of himself, he said he has made sure that his players remember the importance of playing simple and getting back to the basics.
“We are going back to the very basic fundamental skills of soccer,” Sullivan said of how his team is preparing for the season. “They are learning that they first must learn to possess the ball perfectly before they can attack, learning patience and not to force the ball. Our defense and keepers are learning how to communicate with one another and work together with our half backs to move the ball around.”
The Saints lost some key pieces, including three captains due to graduation, but Sullivan isn’t looking for specific leaders to take over this year.
“Of course, I’m always looking for my seniors to be leaders not only on the field but off as well,” he said.
Sullivan is building a new culture within the program as practices are taken very seriously. He tells the Tribune that “the guys know my expectations. They know that I believe you practice like you play and it is important to finish every play... We try our best to have a perfect practice. I want each one of these young men to lead and make a difference, which is why I will not only have a senior captain, but a sophomore [captain] as well.”
The theme for the early part of the season has been mentally starting over, Sullivan said. Last season, the Saints lost a number of close games either in the last three minutes or in overtime, which took a hit on the morale of the team.
Sullivan described the early challenges going into the season saying, “We are a very young team and this is a rebuilding year for us. Most of these guys have never played together and we have several that have never played soccer. Even with the circumstances, these young men have a great drive and willingness to learn and get better... That, alone, excites me.”
Sullivan has decided to not participate in any jamborees this preseason as the Saints have had challenges meeting due to weather and the fact that Sullivan has only been hired for a week.
“There was some uncertainty that Southern Wayne would even have a team this year, but I’m so thankful that I’m able to help these young men have a season,” he said. “I’ve told them that this is their team and that they can be the best in the county if they choose to be.”
Southern Wayne will open its season on Tuesday, Aug. 20 when they host county-foe Spring Creek. That match is set to start at 5 p.m.