The Manhattan Jaspers found themselves looking up at every other school in the MAAC after failing to win 12 straight games from early September to late October.
Next thing they knew, they were on the team bus taking a 14-hour round trip to take on the Niagara Purple Eagles in cold, freezing temperatures with a rain and snow mix falling.
To this point in the season, the offense was inconsistent. They went through a 587-minute goalless streak in a span of six games and followed that up with only three goals in the five games leading up to Niagara.
During these struggles, Jaspers’ head coach Jorden Scott had a conference call with his coaching staff.
“Stay bright, stay positive around the guys. Keep working with them. Do extra sessions, do extra work, do extra video,” he told them over the phone.
After the final whistle blew at Niagara, the Jaspers finally started to put things together. They scored five goals, a season and game-high. Alex Coates McDowall also recorded his third clean sheet of the season.
The team thought to themselves, “Why couldn’t we have just done that all season? We would’ve been fine.”
Throughout the entire season, Scott’s message was about how all it took for either team playing on the soccer field was one mistake, one moment of brilliance, one horrific decision.
“We were that one moment short this year, the whole season,” he said. “That’s tough to take because it tells you that you’re there. It tells you that you’re good enough. It tells you that you need someone to really step up in that moment, and we just didn’t get it.”
“You look at the games we’ve lost and you go, ‘Oh my God, if we could just deal with set pieces and been more aggressive, more determined, concentrated on who we’re picking up we would’ve probably been in the MAAC championship.’ Makes your stomach turn as a soccer coach. Makes you want to throw up because you feel like you’ve done everything as a coach to prepare your team to play with the right style and the right philosophy and the right tempo defensively.”
It’s easy to say offense was the one issue the Jaspers struggled with this season. It was also players’ mentality. The team tended to have too much reliance on McDowall and bigger sized players like Daniel Laguna Kennedy, who had a bad case of sophomore slump with one goal the whole season – a penalty kick – after he scored seven goals his freshman season. Unreached player potential, player development, and structure are just some of things the is working on for next year.
“All of our games were so strong,” graduating senior Jake Scavetta said. “It’s such a weird season that it’s tough to pinpoint one thing.”
Fernando Barboto, Iona Gaels head coach, didn’t know the exact reasons why the Jaspers struggled, but said sometimes it’s part of growing as a program and team.
“They were the best 2-12-2 team in the country,” Barboto said. “They definitely were a lot stronger than their record. They had some nice pieces.”
A few of those pieces he referred to were McDowall, Alex Shackley and Tommy Amos, another graduating senior.
It was a disappointing and unlucky season for the Jaspers but Scott has been the head coach for only two years and a program isn’t built within that time frame. Can a team have a winning season? Yes, not a program, Barboto said, who’s been building the Gaels for 12 seasons.
“It’s going take [Scott] some time. It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “He’s shown promise and that was all seen last year and this year he kind of got tripped up a little bit. But he’ll get back on, get back up. He’s got some nice pieces coming back next year. He’ll be fine.”
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This past season for Scott was a tease.
“It would be like someone dangling a carrot in front of you and chopping your arms off. That’s what it feels like,” he said. “It feels like someone’s just hanging it right there in front of me and just tied my hands behind my back.”