Men’s soccer on the rise

Rewind your memory to the end of last season for the UVM men’s soccer team. The club had a grand total of one win and heavy heads that struggled to walk tall.

One year later and the team now has a hook to hang their hats on. After an offseason of successful recruiting by head coach Jesse Cormier and the return of key injured players, the team is now confident it can contend with the best in the America East.


Blending of Talent


Last year’s team certainly did not lack talent. But what they did lack seems to not be a problem now.

“One word; mentality,” Cormier said. “I thought last year we had the talent, but the mentality was sometimes there and sometimes not, in critical moments it was not.”

The team returns talent and leadership in all areas of the field, with the core of the squad, the midfield, being solidified by team captain, Kyle Luetkehans.

In addition to experience and talent, Luetkehans brings plenty of crucial intangible to the table as well.

“Kyle is one of the most consistent players and people I’ve ever known. He’s going to always give full effort,” Cormier said “He’s been a fantastic leader for us, he’s really helped everybody prepare for this.”

Luetkehans said he started making preparations for his final season as a Catamount right after last season ended, putting in his full effort all the time.

“I’ve worked as hard as I ever had,” Luetkehans said. “I made sure I didn’t take any practices off. The clock’s ticking, you know. I only have one season left,”

The captain made it clear that this year’s team will not mirror last season’s debacle. Increased communication and infusion of new talent has the team buzzing with high hopes.

“Not to knock on last year’s team at all, but we definitely surpass them talent wise,” he said.


Southern (American) Style


Hidden among the well-known returning talents of the team rests a relatively unknown, soft-spoken player who is ready to finally unleash his unique skills.

That player is redshirt junior Juan Peralta, who hails from Paraguay,

Peralta’s journey has brought him from deep in South America to the snowy mountain covered state of Vermont. With him he brings a unique skill set that isn’t seen often in this area: a South American touch.

In an area where soccer is life, Peralta grew up completely immersed in the sport.

“South Americans, Paraguayans, everything they do down there is focused on soccer. It’s like the only way to get ahead in life,” Peralta said.

Though the rules of the sport are the same down there, the culture and lifestyle couldn’t be any different. The economic stress the country faces showed up in the style that the game is played in.

“I never even had a pair of cleats in Paraguay, I must’ve had only one and I didn’t even buy them, they were given to me by my uncle.”  Peralta said. “We didn’t need them.”

He added that he and his friends would play often on the dirt streets or the dirt pitch across from his house.

This grassroots style of soccer tends lead to players from this region to having exceptional ball skills. Peralta is no exception to this tendency.

“I just like to have fun on the field. I just feel the game,” Peralta said.

“His best is an incredible best,” Cormier said. “Over the past couple weeks in training camp we’ve seen snippets of it, but when he’s there and he’s engaged, there’s nobody better.”

Despite the potential, Peralta hasn’t been able to put his skills on display due to an injured knee last season.

Peralta will look to ease his way into the rotation, and Cormier says he intends to use him as he reaches his peak consistency, which is needed after such a tough injury.

With Perlata back from the injury, he adds yet another dimension to a powerful attack.


Firepower and Depth


Last season’s team found goals hard to come by. But with a more talented and a deeper roster, the team doesn’t expect scoring to be a problem at all this year.

Up front, the team will have a bevy of options with returning players D.J. Edler and junior Nick O’Neill, who transferred from D-1 powerhouse Creighton University, will look to make an impact as powerful and athletic forwards, while Peralta and first year Malick Camara add a degree of creativity and finesse to the frontline.

Cormier believes the combination of athleticism and skill his team has will help boost the offensive production.

“When you’re putting in full effort and you have guys with skill and you have guys that are great athletes, chances are going to form,” he said.


Anchoring the Last Line


The offense seems confident in its ability to perform, but that’s only half the game. The defensive backfield for the Catamounts must also be ready to hold their own.

The main man helping them do this is junior Yannick Lewis, who holds the most on-field experience of anyone on the back line.

Lewis believes the technical improvements the squad has made as well as their passion to win will lead to success.

“We’re hungry,” he said. “We’re actually playing now not just focusing on our athleticism; we’re passing, we’re communicating and playing the angles.”

One of the key factors in the success of the defense rests in the leadership of Lewis, which has developed significantly since his first year.

“Yannick has definitely come a long way,” Cormier said. “Last year he was really still trying to find himself as a leader.”

As a player who has seen action on the pitch since his first year campaign, he is a player who’s been able to develop in the thick of the action.

“He’s been through so many battles, he has such a long match portfolio, he can really bring out a lot of his experience,” Cormier said. “He’s done a very good job in studying the leadership piece and what it takes.”

Lewis seemed more than ready to embrace the leadership role.

“I want my team to look at me and not even think twice if I’ll get the job done,” he said. “I’m focused on being a rock back here [on defense].”

With the solidified defense, infusion of new talent and offensive firepower, this year’s Catamounts have no plans of hanging on to the memories of last season.

“I think that this year’s team is going stun everyone.” Lewis said.