By William Bowman
The Daily Item
Jim Findlay knows it is a cliché.
Still, he can’t help himself.
It just comes out.
Findlay has instructed his Susquehanna men’s soccer team to go 1-0 every day and not focus on the big picture.
So far the Crusaders are 17-2 following that philosophy, vaulting to No. 10 in the d3soccer.com poll.
“That’s been our motto since day one: Let’s go 1-0,” said Findlay, in his 15th season with the Crusaders. “That’s all we try to do. I know it’s cliché and all, but we really do try to take it one game at a time.”
That has never been more important than it is right now. For the first time in five years the Crusaders are back in the NCAA tournament, which kicks off this week, this time as one of 16 Division III regional hosts around the country.
Susquehanna, Landmark Conference champions, hosts Cabrini (11-7-3) in an opening-round game Saturday night. The winner of that game turns right around on and plays the winner of Rochester (10-3-3) and Misericordia (12-6-2) on Sunday in a game that will also be played at SU.
A weekend sweep for SU would put them into the sectional tournament next weekend.
For Findlay, the successful run this year has not been totally unexpected. A year after he coached both the men’s and women’s teams at Susquehanna, Findlay was able to focus just on the men’s team this year. “I wasn’t able to give either team the time commitment they deserved,” Findlay admitted.
So when Susquehanna hired Nick Hoover, one of Findlay’s assistants, as the women’s coach in January, Findlay turned his focus to a men’s team that was returning nine seniors from a squad that went 8-9-1 a year ago.
“The seniors coming back, I think, had a bitter taste in their mouths after last year,” Findlay said. “They felt like they had something to prove. But if you would have asked me in August if we’d be sitting here 17-2 and conference champions, I would have said, ‘I hope you’re right.’”
Yet here they are. The only thing separating the Crusaders from a perfect season are one-goal losses to PSU-Altoona and Scranton, the latter of which the Crusaders avenged in Sunday’s Landmark final.
Along the way the squad set program records for wins (17) and shutouts (11) and is making its first appearance in the national tournament since 2008. Earlier this week a program record seven Crusaders were named to the All-Landmark squad: Patrick Murray, David Trank, Sean Raffetto and Brandon Kates to the first team, and Daniel Sosa, John Boylan and Matt Salsman to the second team.
Salsman, a Selinsgrove High grad, has anchored a back line that allowed just eight goals and 147 total shots in 19 games. SU doesn’t have mind-blowing statistics offensively. In fact, 10 different players scored at least two goals and three players (Trank, Fry and John Arnold) are tied for team lead with five goals.
“Our guys are focused on the goals at hand; we have some great senior leaders,” said Findlay. “They are staying on point, looking at the next day, the next game.”