Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
This Middle Tennessee Blue Raider soccer team (3-5, 0-1) can easily be summed up as very young and inexperienced.
During the early part of this season, the Blue Raiders have struggled to get any momentum going. Up to this point, this season has not been very successful, but fans can’t help but notice that this team has the potential to be dangerously good in the years to come.
Compared to past seasons where they’ve had at least a few experienced players, head coach Aston Rhoden doesn’t have that luxury this year.
“A couple of years ago we graduated nine or ten seniors,” Rhoden said. “The challenges and the process of trying to replace those players is what we are still dealing with right now.”
The Blue Raiders have stumbled during the first eight games this year due to their youth and inexperience. They have ten freshmen and nine sophomores, most of whom are being asked to start and play significant minutes. A youthful team like this is bound to encounter trials early on, but fans can start to see flashes of success peak through showcasing the potential this team of young athletes will have after building a sturdy foundation.
Even with the rough start to the season, Rhoden has seen significant steps being taken by his players.
“Anybody who has watched this team from the start of the season till now has seen the growth that they have made not only as a team, but as individuals,” Rhoden said.
When trying to build a foundation, a major key for a team is having a key player to essentially be the face of the program. It’s important to have a player that the team can continue to count on, not only in a cornerstone building year, but in future seasons to come. The Blue Raiders have definitely found the face of their program with their leader in goals and points, true freshman Peyton DePriest.
DePriest realizes that building a basis and struggling early on this year will benefit the young unseasoned Blue Raider team in the next couple of years.
“I think it will start to be a benefit when we start next year’s season because although we are young, we will have had a whole year to figure out how each other play and how to make each other better,” DePriest said. “All teams have to go through an awkward stage where they lose or gain a lot of new teammates and it just takes time to figure out the chemistry between players.”
A key to building a core for the years to come, like DePriest said, is building chemistry between teammates and understanding what each player does well and how they can make each other better this year. This is something that will make this team better in the future.
The Blue Raider soccer team enters the chunk of the Conference USA season after only winning two conference games a season ago. If they can manage to grind out three to five wins in conference play, that will greatly help them in building a foundation as one of the premier teams in Conference USA the next couple of seasons.