CHANGING OF THE GUARD: New Faces, New Identity for Men’s Soccer

Photo credit: Paola Brena.
Photo credit: Paola Brena.

By Samantha Norwood, staff writer.

A new coaching staff can be extremely stressful for any sports team, especially for a team that is also composed of primarily new players. When head men’s soccer coach Ruben Resendes was hired in January, there were 23 players on the team. By the end of June, there were only 11, due to transferring students and graduates. Resendes, along with other coaches and players, was able to build up the team to the current roster of 32 players and two new assistant coaches.

Resendes, a native of Fall River, Mass., has a well-known soccer record, having graduated from Southern New Hampshire University after a four-year playing career there, which featured three trips to the national quarterfinal. He went on to be an assistant coach at SNHU, before taking on his first head-coaching job at Dean College, where he went 33-3-0 over two years and helped transition the team from the junior college level to the NCAA Division III level. After Dean, Resendes moved on to become the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for a two-year stint at University of Vermont.

As for his time at Franklin Pierce, Resendes has tried to improve the team and his players, both on and off the field. “What I want to do is set really high standards for our players,” says Resendes. “We want to build really strong leaders to hold the guys accountable and take leadership when our standards aren’t being met. Our program philosophy is to use every single day as an opportunity to push forward and get better both individually and collectively as a group.” He also spoke of the adjustment for his returning players when he stepped in as the head coach in January, but praised the athletes on their acceptance and integration of this new team culture. 

Unfamiliarity is typical when you have a team that is 65% new to the program, however, Resendes and his crew have been working well as a group. Junior back Cristobal Andreu is a transfer student from Spain. “It’s a little bit different having a new coach and team, but we are welcomed to this country and adapting well. Coach Reuben is a great coach,” says Andreu.

Other players definitely agree, such as graduate student transfer forward Stefan Lohberger, who commented simply, “We have a great team.” The Ravens have put together a very diverse group, welcoming players from many different countries, including Germany, Israel, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Iceland.

Things got off to a strong start for Resendes and his athletes, as they opened the season with a 4-0 win at home over Felician on Sept. 5. Four different newcomers got on the scoresheet for the Ravens in the opener, led by a hat trick from Lohberger in his Franklin Pierce debut. Meanwhile, Andreu, junior midfielder Josep Silvestre Pitarch and junior forward Antonio Ferreira all contributed assists in the contest.

“I thought the opponent was good and made things difficult for us, but we pulled it together at halftime and the guys put the game to rest,” commented Resendes. “Just a good first performance.”

The team itself was ecstatic about their victory, but was still focused on the season ahead of them. According to Lohberger after the opener, “We had a great victory tonight, and now we have to prepare for the next game.”

The next game would be a win as well, as the Ravens took care of visiting Bridgeport at Sodexo Field, 1-0. The first road trip of the season was not as enjoyable though, as the crimson and grey suffered a 2-1 defeat on the road at No. 16 nationally ranked Mercy. Andreu scored the team’s goal against Bridgeport, while Lohberger added his fourth of the season against Mercy, as the new blood continued to lead the offense. The Ravens have a pair of road games on the docket this week, as they visit Queens (N.Y.) on Tuesday night and rival SNHU on Saturday night.

The team may come from around the globe, but it is clear that they all have the same goal. “We want to go to the NCAA Championship and be number one in the conference,” explains Lohberger.

Resendes agrees, stating, “We’re as ready as we can be…We know it’s ambitious, but we’re going to try to do that in our first year together. I think this group is capable of it.”