The East Tennessee State soccer team is on a roll and the right people are noticing.
The Bucs, with the program only four years old, are ranked among the nation’s best teams. They’re as high as 22nd in this week’s national polls.
“A lot of the head coaches from other programs are doing the voting,” said coach Scott Calabrese, the program’s architect. “It’s a sign of respect from them. They feel like our program is growing to the point it should be considered with the more established programs.
“It’s nice to get recognition. It’s a very positive thing for the university, the athletic department and our program.”
ETSU is coming off a 1-0 victory over Virginia Tech on Tuesday night. The score was encouraging for Bucs’ fans, but so was the way the players handled the victory. They acted as if they expected to win, and in front of 1,189 fans at Summers-Taylor Stadium, they did just that.
“I hope we can keep this streak going,” said midfielder Frank Doumbe, who assisted David Geno’s winning goal against Tech. “Now people give us respect. Every time we step out there, they know we are gonna play hard.”
The Bucs were nationally ranked earlier in the season, but shortly after the rankings came out, they suffered their only loss, a 4-0 setback to Old Dominion. It dropped them off the list.
“Mid-majors and programs like ours, because we are still looked at as new, have to get results,” Calabrese said. “If we don’t get results, we’re probably dropping out of the rankings. We are looked at as a program that’s proving ourselves.”
At 6-1 with two victories over other ranked teams — UNC-Greensboro and William & Mary — and a win over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent that had recently beat No. 1 North Carolina, the Bucs have certainly been proving themselves.
“I think when you look at what we did last year, we proved that we were a quality program and we were improving,” Calabrese said. “I don’t think this is a surprise.”
While he likes the attention his program is receiving, Calabrese says the ranking is not motivation in itself. Instead, it’s the result of doing the right things.
“We don’t necessarily focus on the rankings because we can’t control that,” he said. “It’s a sign that other people recognize what we are doing, but we never talk about it with our guys because it’s not really what’s important.
The important things are every time we go out, we’re focused and have a winning mentality and work hard. Those are the things we can control.”
ETSU’s next test comes Friday night when it travels to Rock Hill, S.C., for a game against Winthrop. No. 23 Furman comes to Johnson City for a game on Sunday.
“We’re just trying to get better every time we play,” Calabrese said.