In the final weeks of October 2017, many students on campus were ready for the men’s soccer season to draw to a close. The team, who the year prior had won the Patriot League and nearly defeated UCLA, stood at 5-10-1 and would need a bit of magic to make the Patriot League tournament. Enter Jacob Harris. The sophomore had just two appearances under his belt but immediately made an impact. Harris stopped eight shots in the team’s final two regular season games, seven of which were during the regular season finale victory over Boston University. Within a week, the Raiders rose from middle-of-the-pack to the hottest team in the nation. The squad rattled off seven straight victories on their way to their first-ever appearance in the Sweet Sixteen of the Division 1 men’s tournament.
With a strong returning core and touted group of freshmen, the Raiders stand a chance at replicating last fall’s success. The United Soccer Coaches’ preseason poll ranked the Colgate #25 nationally, best in the Patriot League and higher than D1 giants Cal, UCLA and Maryland.
The team did not disappoint in their opening match on Friday, a 1-0 victory over ACC team Pittsburgh durng which Harris made six saves to preserve the shutout. We spoke with Harris after the win to talk about his first impressions as Colgate’s starting goalkeeper.
MN: What was it like being thrown in as the starting goalie at such a crucial point in the season?
JH: It certainly seemed that there was a lot of pressure, taking over the starting job with two must-win games left on the schedule, but I did my best to approach those games as if there was nothing to lose. After narrowly beating Navy, no one really expected us to beat first-place BU, so there was no real pressure. We all just went out there and played how we knew we could. And after that, our confidence soared, which helped me and my teammates play freely and be successful in the Patriot League and NCAA tournaments.
MN: What do you think made you so successful stepping in midway through the season last year?
JH: I was able to achieve success last year completely because of my teammates and coaches. The most important thing they did was believe in me and my abilities, which really helped me perform at a high level. It was truly a testament to the strong relationships and trust that have been built over my two years as a part of the program.
MN: Expectations are pretty high this year. Can you talk about the team’s mentality going into this season compared to last?
JH: We are going into this season just as hungry as ever. The older guys in the program know what it feels like to win, but no one is complacent with what we’ve achieved in the past. As Coach [Erik] Ronning reminds us, this is a whole new team; we haven’t accomplished anything yet. The feeling of winning a championship is amazing yet fleeting. There’s nothing we want more than to be the first Patriot League soccer team to three-peat and to be more successful in the NCAA tournament.
MN: You had a huge opening win last night. What do you think went right for you regarding how you wanted to open up the season?
JH: Last night was a great start to the season. It was a big-time win against a good Pitt team. The win certainly boosted our confidence and helped us see we can compete and succeed against high-level ACC programs. It was a good stepping stone for more success this season, and it was great for our freshmen to see what it takes to win a game at this level. However, we know we have a quick turnaround with our game Monday night against Albany, so that is our sole focus at this point.
MN: You’ve played against some very
talented programs in your career here. Can you discuss the aspects of your relationship with your backline that have led to success in these games?
JH: Defense is the backbone of our program and my relationship to the backline has been
extremely important to our achievements as a team. The biggest things that have led to our success against such talented programs are trust and communication. I trust my backline no matter the situation and they trust me. I trust them as teammates that they will make the correct decisions within a game, but I also trust them as friends, which may be even more important to our victories. As a defensive unit, we must be able to communicate freely. We listen to each other’s suggestions openly and that makes us better as a whole.
Head Coach Erik Ronning praised Harris’ work.
“Jacob has done a terrific job since earning the starting position during the latter stages of 2017,” he said. “Simply put, he worked incredibly hard, embraced the coaching, improved tremendously and took full advantage of the opportunity in front of him.”
Jacob Harris and the Colgate men’s soccer team continue their season on August 30 when they host Hofstra at 4:30 p.m. at Beyer-Small.
Contact Gideon Hamot at [email protected]