Lipscomb Bisons soccer coach Charles Morrow repeats the word a couple of times.
“Expectations are high,” Morrow said. “But there are other teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference that have high expectations too.
“I think the league is growing in men’s soccer. I think the teams are getting better and better just as we have over the last four or five years.”
The Bisons start off the season with two strong opponents as they travel to Dallas, Texas to face host Southern Methodist Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and top 10-ranked Tulsa Monday at noon in the Southern Methodist Invitational.
“We really don’t know what to expect,” Morrow said. “SMU has been a perennial power, but had an off year last year. They will be very, very good. I have seen Tulsa ranked as high as fourth and as low as seventh.
“We are using these games for the experience. We are going there to compete and to win.”
Morrow knows this season that his players are focusing on winning the A-Sun Tournament and making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“Until we do that our players will be disappointed,” Morrow said. “We have a lot of seniors on this team who came here with the NCAA Tournament as their goal. They are determined to make that happen in their last year.”
Wins and losses are the way seasons are measured, but Morrow also has some expectations which go beyond the numbers.
“My expectations have to do more with attitude, effort and consistency,” Morrow said. “If those things are taken care of then the wins and losses, and how far we advance this season, will sort themselves out.
“Attitude and effort at times were struggles for us last season. Taking care of ourselves off the field was a struggle. These guys are more determined this year not to let that happen.”
The Bisons should be able to put points on the board. But Morrow admits he did not see the offensive production he was expecting in preseason games at Louisville, Trevecca and Georgia State.
“On paper we do look explosive,” Morrow said. “But we have yet to catch fire offensively.
“The potential is there. The talent is there. We look better defensively now than we do offensively. That is sort of a product of where we are at in the season. It takes more time to click in the attacking third. I think it will come around for sure.”
The offensive core consists of forwards Miguel DaSilva and Garret Pettis, and midfielders Angel Chairez and Garrett McLaughlin. Both DaSilva and McLaughlin are preseason All-A-Sun selections.
“They are certainly guys who have experience and are good players for us,” Morrow said. “They bring a level of consistency that you don’t find a lot.”
Junior Brent McGee and freshman Isaac Pile are the goalkeepers this season. But Pile is also penciled in as a starting center back.
“When we watched Isaac we knew he was very athletic and good with his feet,” Morrow said. “Later in the recruiting process we saw him playing with his club team Solar in an Academy event against the best teams in the country. We saw him play goalkeeper, forward and center back.
“He is pretty versatile which you don’t see a lot with goaltenders. We didn’t really think playing him in the field would be an option, but we had somebody back out on us late for this recruiting class. We moved Garrett McLaughlin to the midfield and have Isaac as a center back.”
Morrow admits that having a player splitting the goaltender’s role with another position offers some challenges in practice.
“It creates some issues as far as training,” Morrow said. “He has to get work as a goaltender and then he has to do the work as a field player. It is not an ideal situation, but so far he has been able to handle it.”
McGee is the starter this weekend, but Pile will be waiting in the wings.
Joining Pile on defense are center back Kevin Barbar. Senior Chase Nieri is the left back and junior Ethan Summers is on the right.
“That is how we are starting this weekend,” Morrow said. “Time will tell if it stays that way for the season.”
Morrow would prefer having experience across the line, but he doesn’t have a problem playing two freshmen on the top defensive unit.
“It’s not a risky thing,” Morrow said. “It is always good to have experience back there.
“But both of these guys (Barbar and Pile) have played in the Academy system. They have experience at a high level. And they are true center backs. We haven’t had true center backs in the past few years.”
Both Barbar and Pile have skills that overcome any issues about their inexperience.
“We have had guys who were capable in the past who did a fine job,” Morrow said. “They both read the game well. And they both communicate well. They will get better.
“For the center back position communication is probably the biggest thing we have missed in past years. From that position you can see the whole field. If you communicate well you can cut down the work you have to do quite a bit.”
Barbar and Pile both show a reluctance to allow the other team to get an offensive advantage.
“They both have a good pace,” Morrow said. “We have not left anyone get behind us yet.
“Last year, and even to a certain degree the year before, that was a big concern. We would have a sustained possession in the attacking third and then the other team would counter and we would lose the game on a counter attack goal.”
Morrow plans to start McLaughlin, Chairez, junior Andrew Chamberlain and freshman Nick Bibb.
“Nick is a good all-around player,” Morrow said. “He brings a different element. Not only can he play the wide role, but he can also do some other things that make him more versatile.”
Another freshman who might challenge for playing time is Josh Kolbo.
“Josh is skillful and can run all day,” Morrow said. “He has done a fairly good job this season.”
McLaughlin has been a mainstay of the team. Morrow wants him to play a simple game.
“When Garrett plays his best for us is when he simplifies his game,” Morrow said. “When he tries to do too much, and when he tries to create too much, we run into problems.
“Garrett needs to be a big ball winner. He is a great distributor. He just needs to do it quickly and not try to do too much.”
Pettis , DaSilva and Evan McGee are filling the forward roles. Freshman Juan Pacheco can add a spark offensively as well.
“Pettis is healthy and that is good,” Morrow said. “He is getting better every day because he is playing and he is healthy. He just needs to knock the rust off and polish some stuff up.”
Morrow would also like to see DaSilva simplify his game as well.
“What he does well is pressure defenses,” Morrow said. “He runs at defenders on the way to the goal. When he starts moving diagonally or across the field he is not as dangerous.
“When he works hard defensively he creates things for himself and for other players. The key for Miguel is to concentrate on the things he does well and not try to do too much. He does bring a lot and sometimes he gets the mindset that he has to do everything.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.