Around the pitch: Coach Brizendine sounds off on first half of the season

Q: How would you assess the first half of the season?

Brizendine: “It’s really been an interesting first half of the season considering what we’ve gone through, but I like the position that we’re in now. It’s been unique in the sense that we have some very important players that haven’t dressed for us up to this point. Without the services of Will Mejia, Nico Quashie, Burke Bender and another player that we were counting on – for all four of them not to be dressed means we’ve had to count on some younger guys. We’ve thrown them in the fire and let them learn what it’s like to play at the collegiate level. I think they’ve done a great job. We’ve had some older players step up, we’ve had some younger players step up so its been nice to see how they’ve developed. We thought that we’d count on them, but we we’re counting on them this early.”

Q: When you put the schedule together, did you think it would be the number one toughest in the nation?

Brizendine: “When we finalized the schedule, we knew that it would be challenging. I didn’t realize that it would be halfway through the year and we would have the toughest schedule in the nation. It’s been good for us; we knew that we would have a talented team so the only way to get better is to play better teams. As the saying goes ‘Iron sharpens iron’ so we wanted to put our guys through the paces and make sure that we’re prepared for the ACC, the ACC Tournament and hopefully the NCAA championships.”

Q: Can you describe the feeling in the locker room following the win over No. 1 Notre Dame and what how that has benefitted the program?

Brizendine: “It was a great conference win and the guys were excited as they should be. I can tell you as a staff we are happy with the result but you only get a small window to enjoy it because by late Friday night me and the staff were already thinking about Longwood because that is the next game. For the players, they are enjoying it like they should be and hopefully it propels us to a good week ahead.”

Q: How has Marcelo Acuna performed this season, leading the team with six goals already?

Brizendine: “Marcelo is a leader. I think him, Ben [Lundgaard], Collin [Verfurth], Elias [Tamburini] have all done a great job because they’ve had to bring some younger guys in or even some new guys up and help them be successful. When you score goals that makes things a lot easier. His two goals against Notre Dame were class and he’s a great player and a great person to be around. Marcelo is a great team guy so I’m pleased with his performances. I’m pleased with our leadership up to this point.”

Q: What are your expectations for the second half and what is the ceiling for this team?

Brizendine: “I don’t know. I feel like we’re working into a better rhythm. Like I said, we’ve had to start guys who I didn’t expect to play so they’re starting to get comfortable, so I think our brand of soccer is going to be very good. We’re going to take it one game at a time and build off the momentum of last week.”

Final thoughts:

Brizendine: “I would say from the first half of the season, one of the issues has been consistency. When you have to play a bunch of new players like a Rodrigo [Zampieri], he’s not a new player but he’s playing the most minutes he’s ever played for us this season so a new player on the field, is you get inconsistencies and that’s what we’ve found. Our first part of the season has been a roller coaster ride of inconsistencies. We win a game at Creighton which was an unbelievable result, then we struggle against Omaha and we’ve been back and forth since then. For us to be successful we need to have more consistent performances out of the guys. I believe that Rodrigo, Kristo [Strickler], I’m talking about Camron [Lennon] and Jakob [Bluemler] are starting to feel more comfortable playing for us. We are excited but we know that we have a ton of tough opponents ahead of us. Our next two weeks we have Longwood, then we’re at Boston College and then we are at South Carolina and play host to Louisville. A lot is going to happen here in the next two weeks, but we’re looking forward to it, we’re excited and we think it’s a great opportunity for us.”

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