2002 Soccer Recap
Commodores Prepare for Future Under McClements

When Tim McClements took over as Vanderbilt’s men’s soccer coach, he knew there would be some struggles early on. Unfortunately, McClements finished his first season with a 3-15 overall record, which included a 1-8 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference; however, through a difficult season he knows the future of Vanderbilt soccer will be bright.

Any time a team loses as many games as the men’s soccer team did in 2002, an easy assumption to make would be that the squad quit playing during the season. This statement would be the furthest thing from the truth, as despite all the misfortune the Commodores went through, they didn’t give up at any point during the season.

"It is very easy when you lose that many games for everything to come unglued, but it didn’t happen," McClements said. "Not to say it wasn’t difficult at times, because losing is always difficult. I think they enjoyed the training and came out and competed every day. The players always felt they were consistently getting better throughout the season. Obviously losing is difficult, but it helps when they know they are building something for the future."

While competing in the one of the most challenging conferences in the country, the Vanderbilt men’s soccer team struggled to find its niche this season. The Commodores lost six games by one goal, which shows they were in a lot of game but weren’t able to pick up a win.

A few of Vanderbilt’s highlights were defeating MVC rival Evansville on ‘Senior Day’, 3-1. The Purple Aces had owned the Commodores through the years, as they had won 10 of their 12 meetings prior to this year’s meeting. One of Vanderbilt’s best games this season came against then No. 20-ranked Loyola Marymount at the Vanderbilt/Puma Soccer Classic. Even though the Commodores lost 1-0, this was one of their most complete games on both ends of the field. Since the Vanderbilt game, Loyola Marymount has been the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Top 25.

"Obviously, our results weren’t what we would have liked, but we felt like we were playing better soccer and were able to compete against some of the nationally-ranked opponents that we played," McClements said. "Most importantly, I feel the players were able to build a foundation for the future. I think they have a better understanding of what it is going to take to be a national contender, along with the commitment and talent level that is going to be needed."

McClements will lose a great deal of experience heading into next season, as 10 players will graduate. Senior Nik DeMello will be a big loss to the offense, as he finished the year with six goals and two assists for 12 points, which led the squad. He concluded his career tied for eighth on Vanderbilt all-time scoring list with 20 goals. DeMello also concluded his career tied for 10th on the all-time points list with 51.

Junior Jack Hartley chipped in with three goals and one assist for seven points, which placed him second on team. While the goalie tandem of Matthew Gotterer and Brad Winter didn’t have as good of year as they have in the past, the two seniors stilled played major roles in the success the Commodores had over the last four years.

"I was very fortunate to inherit a group of guys who were experienced and willing to work hard," he said. "We worked hard at the beginning of the year changing our style and structure of play. It is a difficult adaptation for the players, who had been playing in one system for a long time, but they did a great job trying to make that transition."

With the 2002 season behind him, McClements next duty is to reload his squad which loses 10 players to graduation. He will have to fill several holes in the line-up, including the loss of two goalkeepers, four defenders, two forwards and two defenders. McClements also realizes he will have to bring in players that will help make his team competitive at both a conference and national level.

"Since we are losing 10 players, our main concern is to recruit players that can get us to that level, and we are working hard at doing that," he said.

"In order to be competitive in the Missouri Valley Conference, you have to be good. If you are going to get to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and have the potential to move on to the NCAA Tournament, you are going to have to win two games against two strong opponents on a single weekend. You are not going to beat a Creighton or Southern Methodist on the same weekend unless you are good. If our goal is to make the NCAA Tournament at the beginning of the season, then we have to be good. We have to train and prepare in order to become good players so we can beat two conference teams on the same weekend."



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