By Carly Grimaudo
Special to GoHolyCross.com
In the sport of soccer, the word "goal" usually refers to the act of scoring the ball into the opponent's net and earning points on the scoreboard; if you have more goals than your opponent when 90 minutes run out, you win the game. In life, this word typically takes its alternative meaning of, an achievement towards which effort is directed. While these are two distinctive meanings of one word, both definitions can overlap, as they did this year for the Holy Cross men's soccer team. The 2013 team used the concepts of both scoring goals, and setting goals to outmatch eight opponents thus far, six of which are members of the Patriot League. The six Patriot League victories for the Crusaders tie their most ever as the 2001 team is the only other squad to win six in program history. Goal-orientation has been one of the key driving forces during this season's campaign to the Patriot League Tournament, an accomplishment that until this year has not been achieved since 2008. Two-year senior captain Monty Sanders (Temecula, Calif.) has been a huge contributor to this year's success by both scoring goals in crucial victories and helping the team set and successfully reach various short-term and long-term goals throughout the season.
Now in his second year of captainship and fourth and final season of Holy Cross soccer, Sanders has made an immense impact on the team in countless ways. The midfielder has only missed one game since his freshman year, playing and starting in 68 games. He has a total of 11 career goals, seven assists and 29 points, that include four goals, a team-best five assists and a team-leading 13 points so far this season, which are all career-highs. Also his five assists are tied for fourth all-time for a season in program history. Sanders who earned first-team All-Patriot League honors last year in 2012, has without a doubt been a key player throughout his career and especially this year, when the team's efforts earned them a spot in the Patriot League Tournament. Three of Sanders' four goals from the 2013 season were game-deciders that placed the Crusaders above their opponents on the final scoreboard. He netted game-winners in the team's 2-1 victory over Sacred Heart, in the 1-0 defeat of Patriot League opponent Lafayette and in the crucial 2-1 win against Army in the Patriot League contest that would send the Crusaders to the post-season playoffs.
After fulfilling what was once their ultimate goal of making the Patriot League Tournament, Sanders and the squad have realigned their season-long aspirations to match the expanding potential of this talented group of players. The 2013 team, who will compete in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals at home at the Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium versus Colgate on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7:00 p.m., are now pushing themselves forward towards their new goal of becoming 2013 Patriot League champions. Sanders credits this goal-oriented strategy to be the driving force behind the team's progression these past few seasons. He said, "The establishment and commitment to goals, set forth by the coaching staff, help us clearly identify the different roles within our structured team environment and has resulted in a style of soccer that has led to success versus Patriot League teams this season."
While most teams declare from the start of the season that their intentions and efforts are going to be directed at achieving the commonly shared goal of playing in the post-season, the 2013 men's soccer team took the goal-making system a step further to create daily and weekly goals, while keeping in mind their season-long goal as well. Having a combination of both short-term objectives and long-term ones has helped the team maintain its focus throughout the fall season. "We take the season step by step and try not to think too far into the future. We break it down practice by practice because each one is essential to develop a useful strategy for winning," said Sanders. He elaborated on this concept by explaining exactly how the team "takes it day by day." "Some of the things we do to make sure we accomplish our goals is go game by game and break down exactly what we have to do during film sessions prior to the games," he emphasized. "We practice the style of soccer that will give us the best result against the particular style of a team and also practice game-like offensive and defensive set-pieces, so we know how to handle certain scenarios and how to execute in games," Sanders added.
As mentioned by Sanders, this clearly effective strategy can be largely credited to the coaching staff, which includes head coach Marco Koolman. In his second season with the Crusaders, Koolman has introduced a system to the team that has bred a 8-8-1 record so far for this season, the team's best record since 2008. Koolman has stressed to his team and two senior captains, Sanders and Dane Kenny (Williston Park, N.Y.) the importance of setting goals and creating the mindset needed to achieve them. "Goals vary on and off the field. Dane and I would meet with coach once a week throughout the spring season and talk about the status of the team, ensuring that everyone is on the same page," said Sanders. These weekly meetings from as early as last spring, the team's developed form of play, the coaches' scouting reports and recruiting that has brought in freshmen with key roles on the field are all factors that Sanders believes to have sincerely contributed to the team's success in the Patriot League this year.
With just a few games left before the close of his impressive collegiate career, Sanders is looking to leave everything on the field in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament. Though obviously saddened to leave behind something that has been such a big part of his life, Sanders is looking forward to seeing what's ahead for this team, that he calls a family. "It means a lot to have grown with this program. Leaving it behind will be very sad, but I'm excited because I know that the following years will present similar if not better soccer from Holy Cross," said Sanders.
Before leaving however, the 2013 team's hard work and dedication have given Sanders another week of soccer with a few more goals left to score and one new goal left to achieve.