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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

Nichols’ winning history brings hope to men’s soccer

Just 11 months ago, the Loyola University Maryland men’s soccer team boasted an undefeated 5-0-1 record heading into a home showdown against then-No. 21 UMBC. Another win would have more than likely catapulted the Greyhounds into the national rankings. The local battle of the unbeatens remained scoreless into the second half, until UMBC pulled out the 3-1 victory, giving Loyola its first loss of the 2013 season. The Greyhounds would then go on to lose seven of their final 10 games, finishing the season 7-8-2 in their inaugural Patriot League season.
The 2014 season brings a new head coach and multiple transfers to the men’s soccer program, and the Greyhounds hope their new-look squad will bounce back from last season’s disappointing finish.
New head coach Steve Nichols, taking the place of previous coach Mark Mettrick, becomes the latest Loyola alum to take a head coaching position at the school.
“It’s a dream come true,” Nichols said of returning to the Loyola campus. “I wake up every morning and I pinch myself, knowing that this is something that I’ve always wanted to do. When I was here, it was some of the best years of my life, and to come back here and try to turn it back into what it was then is a great opportunity.”
As a student-athlete for the Loyola men’s soccer team, Nichols was an all-region performer and two-time team most valuable player, helping the Greyhounds achieve a record of 28-7-8 through the 1989 and 1990 seasons.
After graduating from Loyola, Nichols made a profound mark as the head coach of McDonogh School in Baltimore, where he coached for 17 years before taking the Loyola job. He also served as the head coach of the Baltimore Bohemians professional team.
In the 17 seasons under Nichols, McDonough won eight MIAA Championships, and were runners-up six times. Only three times did they not play for the MIAA title. He led McDonogh to a No. 1 national high school ranking twice, including just last season, when the Eagles won the national championship with an undefeated record.
Coaching a successful high school soccer program in the Baltimore area for so many years should benefit Nichols as he enters his first year coaching the Hounds.
“Being the number one club in the country for five years and having your hands on those players gives us a massive advantage where we have those relationships with those families and players, and hopefully it’ll pay off for us in the coming years,” Nichols said.
As is often the case when a new head coach takes the helm, many new players round out the roster as well, including three new goalkeepers: freshman Pat Frick, junior Stevenson transfer KC Hershey, and sophomore Old Dominion transfer Matt Sanchez, who played for Nichols at McDonogh School. Nichols has liked what he’s seen so far in terms of team chemistry between the newcomers and returning players.
“The chemistry and personalities have been great,” Nichols commented. “We force that unselfish attitude, and the accountability attitude has gotten better and better every day. I think the new guys and the old guys have done a great job. We hold everybody accountable; there are no favorites and nobody gets any preferential treatment. I think as a group, they’ve really grown a lot, and I think they’ve shown that both on and off the field.”
The Greyhounds will need to fill the offensive void left by Larry Ndjock, who transferred to UCLA over the offseason. Ndjock led the Patriot League with 12 goals and
25 points last season, and ranked second in the NCAA with 0.86 goals per game and sixth in the nation with 1.79 points per game. Senior forward Connor Thompson, who finished last season second on the team in goals and points, will be one of those relied upon to fill the void offensively.
“Connor was great for us in the spring,” Nichols said of the senior. “I think in our five spring games he had six goals. We went 3-1-1 and had a phenomenal spring, and a lot of it was because of his finishing. Unfortunately, he came in with a bit of an injury during the preseason and hasn’t been a hundred percent, and we need to get him there if we’re going to win and be successful this fall.”
Other than Thompson, the Greyhounds’ 2014 roster contains three other seniors: Joseph Cahalan, Joey Wilkins and Andrew Waddington. Coach Nichols believes that his seniors will bring a win-now mentality to the team this season.
“They’ve brought an urgency,” Nichols said of his four seniors. “I think they want to win—they haven’t won since they’ve been here. They haven’t been to the [NCAA] Tournament since they’ve been here. I think they’re working as hard as they can to try and push these guys. We’re hoping we can surprise some people and give them that success they’ve been looking for.”
Coach Nichols is also impressed with how his seven freshmen players have developed since the spring.
“As a group, they’ve grown individually. They’ve gotten better and better, and the kids are buying in and they’re working as hard as they can. I think we just need to improve their quality a little bit, and that comes from trying to grab some of these local kids from inside and outside the community. Once that comes together with these guys working hard, I think in a couple years we’ll have a pretty nice product here.”
Loyola will look to improve upon last season’s 2-6-1 record against Patriot League opponents, and will need to work hard in order to keep up with the likes of defending Patriot League champion Navy, as well as Army, in the conference this year. Coach Nichols believes his team is up to the challenge.
“Navy and Army are the two teams to beat it seems like, and they have some talent, but they also work hard and have a different mentality. If we can match that mentality, we might have a chance against them.”
Nichols also believes that succeeding in the Patriot League will depend a lot on the team’s culture.
“When you’re playing against Army and Navy you’re dealing with a different culture. Those are guys who fight for our country and are willing to do whatever it takes to win a soccer game. We have to get that unselfish attitude and that accountability attitude into our program, and once we can adapt to that mentality and put the quality on top of it, I think we can be successful in this league.”

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Nichols’ winning history brings hope to men’s soccer