With nine games complete, the men’s soccer team has already notched a collection of accomplishments. The squad currently sits at 5-2-2, which matches their best start since 2013. They’ve recorded a total of 12 goals on 11 assists, while opponents have only scored on the Lions five times, on five assists. And last week, the squad was ranked No. 24 in the nation in the NCAA national coaches’ poll.
It’s a big change from one year ago. At this point in the 2018 season, the team had posted a 2-9 record. They would go on to finish the year at 6-12. A year later, the 2019 squad has nearly topped that win total at less than halfway through the season.
“We brought in some really good players that have stepped in and contributed right away,” said head coach Paul Krumpe, who entered his 22nd season this year. “Six of our starters are new faces and [are] super athletic, quality players.”
Krumpe has seen a number of highs and lows while at the helm of the men’s soccer program. During his tenure, the team qualified for the NCAA National Championship Tournament for four straight seasons from 2001-2004 and then again in 2009 and 2013, in addition to two West Coast Conference championships in 2010 and 2013. Krumpe has also seen multiple single-digit win teams, though he understands that the nature of college soccer means some seasons are far more successful than others.
“I've been involved in this long enough to know that there [are] years where everything rolls your way, and there [are] years where everything rolls against you,” said Krumpe. “And this just happens to be—so far—one of those years where we’ve done a good job of being prepared for this opportunity.”
The Lions have faced a number of strong teams this fall, including three ranked opponents—No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 23 Cal State Northridge and No. 13 Cal State Fullerton. The Lions lost, won and tied the three respective games.
Krumpe likes the high difficulty of his team’s opponents this year and is proud of how his players have fared so far this season.
“Our schedule is one of the top in the country, because everybody we've played has a winning record,” said Krumpe. “Most teams can't say that. Most programs have played one or two games against some opponents that are not as good, and you're not sure where they’re at. We've been tested in every single match.”
And one player who has made significant contributions to the team’s success against these powerful opponents is sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Jackson, who won WCC Player of the Week on Sept. 23 and broke program records in number of games with no goals allowed (six) and number of scoreless minutes (560+).
“I don’t think any of us really expected to come out [this strong] from the start,” said Jackson. “But we connected, we all are doing well, and I think we’ve been benefiting from it.”
In addition to Jackson, Krumpe is very pleased with the rest of his roster this season, especially the defensive group, compared to that of 2018.
“We’ve had a lot of guys that have stepped into roles and been really impressive, namely [Narciso Cervantes] on the right side in the back, [Christian Wood] on the left side of the back, obviously [Jackson] in goal, [and] also [Noel Caliskan] as our deep-holding mid,” said Krumpe. “I mean those guys have been amazing, and huge upgrades from where we were at this point last year.”
And while the Lions have seen a lot of success so far, Krumpe knows there are elements to his team’s game that still need improvement.
“We’re still struggling to put balls in the back of the net,” said Krumpe. “I think we’ve been pretty good at creating decent opportunities, but the finishing product is not quite there yet. We’re working on it — we’re trying to do something every day to get better at that.”
And the group must work to resolve any weaknesses as soon as possible as the Lions prepare for conference play, beginning with Gonzaga (1-6-1) on Saturday, Oct. 12. The team wants to continue making noise as they begin facing these in-conference opponents.
“I want to win the WCC, I want to win the national championship and I want us to just keep going,” Jackson said. “I just want to keep doing what we’re doing.”
And even with those goals and the team’s early success, the team still has a lot to prove, according to Jackson.
“We have a lot to prove, [and] we’re going to work every day to fight and prove to everyone that this is LMU,” said Jackson. “LMU soccer — we’re up there. We’re going to put a new name on it.”