John O’Connor set the standard for what was to come for Castleton State College soccer. In his first pre-season, coaching in a calm but confident tone, he reassured his new players with his knowledge and passion. That is what a leader of a family is all about.
As long as they put the work in, he said this knowledge and passion would be seen in their play. On and off the field, the players found an uplifted spirit. Something was going to be different.
They would be a family.
The team worked together as movers, tour guides and jokesters, but most of all as those who would go that extra mile to help the family reach its goal.
At the end of every practice, before every game, the chant was clear.
This word brought the team together and summed up everything that O’Connor and his new Spartan squad were all about.
Going into the spring after a tough home defeat to Thomas College to end the season made the team train even harder over the winter.
"The guys were dissatisfied and that pushes them," said O’Connor.
This past season was more about teaching O’Connor’s style of play and trying to get everyone on the same page.
Michae Tanke, a grad assistant and former semi-professional soccer player, feels the CSC soccer program is evolving for the better.
"It is a natural evolution and we are perfecting the philosophy even more than we did in the previous fall," said Tanke.
Now that the team is becoming more familiar with this attack-minded style, they can put it to the test this spring.
O’Connor has made a few key changes for their spring and regular season schedule, making it much more competitive. With the introduction of Keene State, Johnson and Wales, Eastern Connecticut and Plattsburgh, the Spartans look to compete regionally instead of just in-state.
"When you play good teams, no matter what the result is, you’re going to get better," said O’Connor.
The returning players share the same mentality.
"In my opinion we are the best team in the NAC," junior striker Vinny Addonisio said with a confident smirk. "But nothing is going to be handed to us."
The goal of this Spartan team is not your regular, win the NAC or bust, it is much more than that.
"Winning is a result, not an action," said Tanke. "Our goal is to play perfect soccer."
Junior midfielder and captain of the team, Bryce Kaler, feels the team has the potential to be perfect.
"With the style that O’Connor implemented, it feels like a realistic goal," said Kaler.
What O’Connor brought from his previous coaching position at the University of Rhode Island to Castleton is his belief in a strong regular season schedule.
"You’re exposed to greater talent and that can be important when you get to post-season play," said Kaler.
The men’s soccer team now has the potential to be the first male team to get an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. Those go to teams who are regular season conference champions who fail to win their post-season conference tournament.
"When we reach our full potential, if we do that, then we will do those things," said O’Connor.
By bringing a Division I coach to lead the soccer program, you get their knowledge and experience.
"I still consider myself a young coach and am really lucky to have someone like OC to go to," said Chris Chapdelaine, women’s soccer coach.
"Last year was the first time in my nine seasons that I had that chance and someone who is willing to work with me … is priceless," he said.
Athletic Director Deanna Tyson said she believes the bar is rising for all Castleton sports, not just soccer.
"Word has gotten out and people are more interested in our programs," Tyson said.
The Castleton soccer team already has a prominent name in the state of Vermont and now the program as whole is trying to become regionally known.
"We are trying to get our name to be a recognizable team in New England more than it already is," said Tanke.