Photo by Callie Hummel

Hurricane men’s soccer nationally ranked

Deck: Tulsa defies NCAA odds, sports analyst Callie Hummel reports.

Originally ranked #24 in the nation by the NCAA before the season started, the University of Tulsa men’s soccer team is rapidly making their way up the ranks. After another blowout away game against South Florida, on Sep. 18, resulting in a 5-2 win and an updated 6-0 record, the team is now ranked in the top 10 of 4 national ranks.

Tulsa is ranked 5th on Top Drawer Soccer and 8th on both United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News, all of which are organizations dedicated to enhancing pre-professional soccer to its highest capabilities. The official AP poll that the NCAA uses for its rankings has even moved Tulsa men’s up to 8th as well. Sophomore, Alex Meinhard, is also in the top 100 individual soccer players by Top Drawer Soccer, coming in at #72. Meinhard believes however that it is most important to keep the focus ahead and always be thinking about the next game.
“You can’t think of the trophies or the goals you scored in the past, let’s get onto the next one and beat the next team,” Meinhard explains.
Statistics like these suggest that these players must be focusing all their time on soccer alone. However, the main goal of this program is not just to create good players, but good all-around people. Coach McIntosh wants “the players to grow up to be good people. We want them to have a great life when they leave and hope they’re building habits to do that.”

This idea is put straight into action with the mission statement of the program which focuses on three major ideas: relentless pursuit of championships, tireless work for excellent grades to a degree meaningful to the player and positive impact on the campus and community. While the team’s success this season indicates great athletes, it takes all three of these things to make this 6-0 team.
While the team works relentlessly towards championships every time they step on the field, most of that work is put in when there are no spectators and no fans cheering them on.

“Preparation is the key to where we are right now.” Meinhard says, “It started as soon as we left school in the spring.” Players were given a workout packet for the summer including workouts for five days of the week, and the team had regular meetings and talked tactics far before the season started.

Now in season, players will show up for training before 7 a.m. to watch film, lift and then get to the field for practice from 8:30-11 a.m. Alex Lopez, freshman goalie, says that, “it’s not unlikely to see a minimum of five to eight players staying behind after official practice has ended to work on something or get advice from Coach.”

Malik Henry-Scott, sophomore forward, says that with all the training they’re doing, “the motto we talk about as a team is just always about getting better… It keeps us in a progressive and growth mindset.”
Pursuing education is the second key factor in their program. “School is the reason we’re here- to get a quality education and make the most of it,” McIntosh says.
Results are showing in schoolwork as well, as last year the team earned a team academic excellence award in the American Athletic Conference and ended the year with a 3.559 GPA, 11 players earning a 4.0.

Enhancing the college and community is an important aspect to the University of Tulsa men’s soccer program as well, whether that be the player to player or player to coach relationships, or just how the team can positively impact the Tulsa community.“We started building those [player] relationships the first week of summer. We started building this project two months ago, and now we are seeing the results,” Lopez says. McIntosh also believes that a large part of the chemistry between the team is the respect players have for each other.
This respect continues to show in the relationship between coaches and players as well. The coaches want the players to work as hard as possible, and one way to foster that is to lead by example. Meinhard believes that “the coaches don’t really get the credit they deserve most of the time” and Lopez says that the coaching staff analyzes their game film immediately after their games even though it’s 10 p.m. or later. The team plays every three days, and in that time period coaches watch the previous game’s film, film on the upcoming team and relay all the information to the team.

The coaches reciprocate this same respect for the players with the confidence they show in them. For example, McIntosh’s starting lineup includes 18-year-old freshman Lopez who the coaching staff put full faith in for his first year. “He’s much more mature than an average 18-year-old. Lopez has a game awareness and communication ability that a lot of 18-year-olds don’t have. He’s an excellent shot stopper, and he’s very good with his feet. He gives us an additional defender that can pass and play out of the back—that’s why he’s played as much as he has.”
In the Tulsa community, the team works with the DreamCenter youth to put on soccer events and oftentimes bring the kids to the games. “We saw the kids out there and it was great to celebrate with them and give them high fives before and after the game,” Henry-Scott says.
The team also does community service work such as handing out food and working with youth at Kendall Whittier Elementary. It’s important to the coaching staff to do this because they believe, “our players get as much out of it as the people we’re assisting… it’s another way to positively influence their culture.”

Going into the game against Memphis, Henry-Scott is on a four-game scoring streak, keeping the mindset of going into each game “knowing [he has] to find a way to score anyway possible” to contribute what he can to the team. Coach is confident in his abilities saying, “He’s a tremendous individual … he’s gonna have a great career ahead of him.”

On Sep. 29, Tulsa is back home going up against SMU, a top 10 team, with their first conference home game. With last year’s fans only being at 25 percent occupancy, the team is ready and excited to have more fans to show up to the games, especially this important conference game. Henry-Scott says that having the fans there “really helps out a lot—you can hear them and feel like they’re with you.” With the way the team has been performing, it’s inevitable that fans will be able to see a great game, and Lopez instills this idea saying, “We are trying to be the best team in the country…we’re trying to do it, and we’re on the way to do it, and we want to do it. We’re going to fight for that.”

Post Author: Callie Hummel