Every coach hopes to have one player he knows he can always rely on – a captain he can look to on and off the field.
For men’s soccer coach David MacWilliams, that one guy is senior Mike Minai.
“I think he’s capable of dictating the face of the game for us,” MacWilliams said. “Skill wise, the team is definitely impressed with his ability.
“He’s a very creative player. A player the other teams have to watch out for.”
The season is only six games deep, but already Minai, a forward from Fairfax, Va., helped the Owls win the Drexel Invitational Tournament Championship. In the clincher against Howard, Minai scored his first goal of the season to accompany his first assist.
But Minai has not only been making assists on the field. His experience and leadership is rubbing off on younger players, like sophomore J.T. Noone.
“Mike is definitely a leader on the team,” said Noone, who plays both midfielder and forward. “He has always been a really good friend to me, and he’s fun to be out there with. It definitely helps to have guys like him.”
MacWilliams hoped the Drexel Invitational Tournament victory would carry over to Game 1 of the Old Dominion Tournament in Norfolk, Va., Friday, stating the importance of winning the first game, but William & Mary outscored the Owls 3-1.
It wasn’t any easier for Temple (2-3-1) against Old Dominion (2-3-1) Sunday. The Owls managed nine shots on goal, the most crucial coming in the last 30 seconds of the game. Monarch’s goalkeeper Evan Newton snagged the shot to preserve his shutout.
The Monarchs didn’t let Owls goalie Trevor Lyman have it as easy, sending 19 shots at the senior, including one from freshman Stig Haddal nearly six minutes into the second half that went by Lyman and gave Old Dominion a 1-0 victory.
After the tough weekend, the Owls will look to bounce back Saturday at Hartford (3-0-1).
Beyond that game, Noone knows he will play a more important role on the field and in the locker room when Minai is gone.
“[Minai] definitely leaves big shoes to fill,” Noone said. “He’s a great player.
“Right now, I’m just trying to enjoy the last year I have to play with him.”
Don’t think this year is the end of Minai’s soccer run. He plans to continue his soccer career after graduation, even if it means leaving the country.
“I plan on going overseas,” said Minai, while pointing out he has connections back in Virginia. “To continue playing soccer is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Though he already knows what he plans to do after school, Minai is focused on this season.
“As a senior, I want to go as far as possible,” he said. “I’m trying to be the best leader I can, while letting the younger kids know they need to have fun. The more fun you have, the better you play. They also need to do what they do to help the team as a whole.
“So far collegiately, I haven’t achieved much at all. Even getting to the [Atlantic Ten Conference] Championship would be a dream come true.”
“If everyone works hard for each other – not for themselves – we can do big things.”
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.