The Georgia State men’s soccer team looks to win their first Sun Belt Championship after losing last season in the championship match. The Sun Belt Conference Championship will be hosted by Georgia State from Nov. 10-13. The Panthers are 12-6 on the season and 3-1 in conference play. Head coach Brett Surrency, who is in his seventh season with the team, thinks the play this season has been pretty good.
“For the most part it’s been good, I think guys have come in for majority of the season and have done some really good things,” Coach Surrency said. “We’ve had a few slip-ups here and there that we would want back. However, I really like this team and I think they’ve done well. I’m excited to finish out the season.”
The few slip ups that Coach Surrency mentioned were minor errors that have cost the Panthers some games. For instance the overtime 2-1 loss to Brown University, where the Panthers outshot Brown 14-12 and gave up a costly penalty kick in the 97th minute to give Brown the win.
Other slip-ups have been the ball not going in the net for the Panthers. Against Georgia Southern, the Panthers outshot them 10-7 and scored first, but gave up two goals in back-to-back minutes that would eventually lead to a 3-1 victory for the Eagles. However, coach Surrency feels it is something the team can still fix.
“That’s just an on-going process,” Coach Surrency said. “We have some young players that are figuring things out as they go along. Hopefully, we’ve learned from those experiences and if we are put in those situations again we are better off for it.”
Having made it all the way to the championship round last season, the Panthers know what it is going to take to get there again this season.
“We just need to do the same thing as last season,” sophomore midfielder Max Hemmings said. “We need to work on the things we don’t do as well and take each game as it comes. We are looking to improve on the things we did not do so well, so this year we can go one step further and win the Sun Belt.”
Coach Surrency has installed a game-by-game type mindset for the Panthers this season when it comes to preparing them for the Sun Belt tournament.
“We look at the game in stages and right now we are still in the Sun Belt regular season and we are trying to continue to progress as we get into the Sun Belt Conference Tournament,” Coach Surrency said. “First step is doing well in the conference games and knowing that regardless of who we play in the tournament we will have already played against them once. So part of it will be us feeling out the Sun Belt opposition.”
The Sun Belt Conference Tournament will be more difficult this season with the addition of Coastal Carolina, the team that is currently tied for first place in the conference with seven conference points. Still, Coach Surrency thinks his team can still come out on top.
“It’s gonna be tough with the addition of Coastal Carolina this year, I think the conference is better than it was last year,” Coach Surrency said. “We’ll have home field advantage with hosting the tournament, so that’s something we can build upon. It will be a difficult thing, but I think we have the team to be able to do it. It’s just a matter of showing up on the given night and taking care of business.”
The Panthers already have more wins than they did last season with 10, and still, have three games left to finish out the season. Currently in third place in the conference, the Panthers also have the second-best overall record in the conference. The biggest difference compared to last season is experience according to Hemmings.
“Last year we had a really young team,” Hemmings said. “This season we have a lot more returning players and we added good players coming in on transfers as well.”
The Panthers have an astonishing 18 players returning from last season, which has helped with team chemistry this season. With so many players returning, the Panthers have been able to change up their lineups and adapt to numerous injuries they’ve had this season.
“We’ve battled a lot of injuries this season,” Coach Surrency said. “We’ve had numerous guys that have stepped in and played key roles for us which is a good thing down the road and get everyone healthy.”
With so many injuries on the team, over 15 players have at least 330 minutes of gameplay experience and have played in at least nine games this season. With so many injuries and different lineups, the Panthers are still just one point behind first place in the conference. This says a lot in regards to how great this team is and why Coach Surrency feels the work rate of this team is their best attribute as a whole.
“The work rate is incredible, the guys come in and they absolutely leave everything on the field,” Coach Surrency said. “From a coaching perspective, you can’t ask for anything more when it comes to that. There a group of guys that just comes in ready to go. It’s a group that when it’s time to enjoy things they will and it’s time to come ready to work they do.”
The Panthers have two big conference games against Hartwick and Coastal Carolina to finish out the season. Those two games will be crucial in determining whether the Panthers will get a first round bye like last season. Having more experience this season with 18 returning players and already winning more games than last season despite numerous injuries, this team chances of winning their first Sun Belt Championship on their home field are high.
The Panthers are on a roll!
1st Place in Sun Belt Conference, 9 points
5 shut-outs this season
Currently on a 5 game winning streak
Averaging 2 goals per game
Got revenge against Hartwick, 4-0 Victory
Hannes Burmeister 11 goals this season (1st on team)