After four games, junior forward Zachary Danssaert leads the men’s soccer team in virtually every scoring category: shots, shots on goal and goals. His greatest offensive weapon is his accuracy— he has tallied four goals in 14 shots.
Danssaert scored his most important goal last Sunday, when he helped the Polar Bears defeat Babson College, the nation’s tenth-ranked team. With only 4 minutes remaining in the tied game, he leaked through Babson’s defense to finish a pass from midfielder Eddie Jones ’12 clinching the 1-0 victory in a dramatic fashion. This victory is the team’s third consecutive win, improving their overall season record to 3-1.
Danssaert tried to steer the conversation away from his individual accomplishments and towards the magnitude of the win.
“We made the statement that we can physically compete against everyone,” said Danssaert of the Babson win.
He noted this win’s importance, as the team was looking to bounce back from their season-opening 2-0 loss to Wesleyan.
“The first game’s always a tough one, with thinking about how we’re playing and setting up. I think the loss against Wesleyan was definitely a tough one,” he said.
Danssaert also said he hopes not to repeat last season’s collapse, where the team had an identical 3-1 start but finished the season with a 4-7-3 record. Danssaert said he is confident that the team is on a different path this year.
“Last year we never really came to a top 11 and we never really got our confidence.” Danssaert says. “A big difference this year is that everybody kind of knows their roles.”
“I think the main thing I try and do is to hold up the ball on the defense and keep pressure on the defenders,” he added.
Danssaert was quick to point out that the team’s success so far this year has hinged on both the players’ mental preparation and chemistry, and their physical fitness.
“On a team level, this year we just have a great mentality...a bunch of good kids. Everybody gets along. We need to build our confidence and keep putting up good performances,” he said.
Danssaert tried to play down his recent performances.
“On an individual level, I’m probably not that prolific of a scorer that I’m going to average a goal a game,” he said.
Danssaert’s greatest contribution then may be his influence on his teammates.
This past summer, he returned to the training techniques that got him recruited from Solana Beach, Calif.
Forward and senior captain Michael Gale commended Danssaert’s off-season dedication.
“Working hard in the summer is the tough part about fall sports. He clearly did stuff over the summer to allow him to contribute immediately,” said Gale.
Captain Call Nichols ’12 recalled that Danssaert looked “fit, strong, and ready to go” on the first day of preseason training.
The team’s upperclassmen did not seem surprised that Danssaert is playing at the elite level he has demonstrated this season thus far. Nichols and Gale said they had admired his work ethic since he was a first year and are pleased that he has blossomed into such a talented player for the team .
“Freshmen year we kind of saw bits of what he can do. Now he’s starting to figure out how to be consistent. He’s making everyone else around him better,” said Nichols.
Danssaert said he hopes to replicate another part of his first year on the team—reaching the NCAA Division III Tournament. He said that if he could accomplish one goal by senior night, it would be “to get back to the final four.”
With a half-smile, Danssaert added, “but my main job is to score goals.”