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In a normal year, upperclassmen like midfielder Hilli Goldhar wouldn’t meet the new men’s soccer freshmen class until the team returned for its brief preseason training period. But in an offseason of many firsts, Goldhar virtually interacted with the new players – and the rest of the team – during weekly Zoom workouts sessions this summer.
During one running session, each player placed their phone at the finish line of the track as they completed their laps, Goldhar said. For the majority of days, players were sent individual workout regiments through the TeamBuildr app. The workouts mainly focused on “tough” bodyweight work, Goldhar said, since many players didn’t have access to dumbbells or other gym equipment.
“Our trainer Corey Parker is very good and very creative,” Goldhar said. “So he was able to come up with a lot of good stuff.”
By mid-July, Goldhar and his teammates began training in Syracuse in small pods that expanded throughout the offseason, similar to SU football. Goldhar and fellow midfielder Simon Triantafillou both said in a Zoom press conference that no member of the team has opted out due to COVID-19, while head coach Ian McIntyre confirmed the entire roster opted-in for 2020. McIntyre said that while some players initially had questions upon returning to campus, they were satisfied with the testing protocols and answers they received.
“Syracuse has done an outstanding job of, you know, creating this environment,” McIntyre said. “Also, not just telling us what to do, but explaining why we’re doing it.”
McIntyre mentioned multiple times that this has been an “atypical” year and offseason, but one benefit has been an extended preseason. Though SU will play only one preseason game against Virginia, which was moved from Charlottesville to the SU Soccer Stadium, the team has had four intrasquad scrimmages.
For a group that added 14 new players via transfer and its incoming freshman class, and lost its top-two scorers last year in Ryan Raposo and Massimo Ferrin, the scrimmages have been “critical” for the squad’s progress, McIntyre said. Goldhar added that in addition to the lost spring season — typically used to maintain the squad’s match-fitness — he also wasn’t able to train with his local club team back home, which also would’ve meant one competitive match a week.
(The scrimmages have) been a very important part of our progression in practice, to train hard and also give the guys a carrot at the end of the week.
Triantafillou, who has been playing at right and left back in the games instead of his usual spot in central midfield, said that the quality of play has progressively improved with each scrimmage under the floodlights at the SU Soccer Stadium.
“It’s been a very important part of our progression in practice,” McIntyre said, “to train hard and also give the guys a carrot at the end of the week.”
Still, the offseason hasn’t been without its challenges and frustrations. Transfer forward Manel Busquets, who is from Barcelona, Spain, along with other players from Europe, were often limited in what they could do to train in the offseason, due to strict lockdown protocols at the height of the pandemic, McIntyre said. Brazil-native Roque Viegas Jr. was the last player to arrive, and at various points in preseason some players were able to fully train, while others were still subjected to New York state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Now, with its only preseason game four days away, Goldhar said his “competitive juices are flowing because I’m dying to play another team.” McIntyre, too, is ready to put the unprecedented offseason in the past.
“I’ve missed the guys so much,” McIntyre said. “You realize when you’re away, how much your team means to you, how much your guys mean to your staff. It’s been a real blessing to have this chance to train and now to compete together.”
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