After winning the Northwest Conference Championship a few years ago, the past two seasons have been rough for the Pacific University Men’s Soccer Team.

But the 2013 season has gotten off to an explosive start as the Boxers have opened with five straight victories and are gunning to show the rest of the conference that they are a top contender.

The biggest difference with this year’s team is the solid core of eight seniors, seven of which were a part of the 2010 Northwest Conference championship team.

That being said, they know what it takes to win.

In recent years the Boxers were never lacking in leadership, but having eight seniors instead of only a few makes a huge difference.

Senior goalkeeper and one of the team’s two captains, Michael Summers, feels that having strength in numbers of seniority helps out tremendously with the mentality of the team.

“It’s a huge difference,” said Summers.

“It’s a completely different mentality. Everyone is on board with one page. Our team motto is ‘One Love.’ It helps having a core group like what we have.”

This year’s roster size is down to 23 compared to last year’s roster of 32.

Having a smaller roster may give the team a lack of depth, but Head Coach Jim Brazeau feels that it makes it easier to address individual and team needs.

Because previous teams had a much bigger roster, Summers felt that contributed to not being able to get everyone on board.

“There were so few of them that it’s really hard to manage a group of 25 to 30 kids with only two or three seniors,” said Summers.

“Everyone else wasn’t falling on board. It’s just the lack of numbers, strength and unity in the group.”

Also coming into this season are ten new freshmen players.

With the loss of seniors and a few freshmen from last year’s team, the incoming freshmen were able to fill in the holes and make immediate impacts.

“A few of the freshmen have come in and are starting right off the bat and that’s perfect,” said Summers. “I’m excited for them to grow and see them grow up throughout the years here.”

Freshmen players Steen Shober, Nicolas Kaminsky, Nick Pinto and Elan Yogi have all seen significant playing time.

Kaminsky is second in the team in goals scored and had a huge game Sept. 9 against Walla Walla. He scored two goals as the Boxers grabbed a 3-0 victory.

The Pacific Men’s Soccer Team was picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches’ poll.

Brazeau just sees that as motivation. The ultimate goal is always to win the conference championship but realistically, the Boxers have their sights set on a top three finish.

“The players are expecting to win and they are a very cohesive group,” said Brazeau.

“It’s a long season and we need to stay focused and continue to prepare for the NWC games.”

The Boxers will begin conference play Saturday, Sept. 21 against Puget Sound.

Kick-off is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. at Lincoln Park Stadium.

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