Youthful men’s team trying to find itself
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The JU men’s soccer team has experienced a pair of losses the hard way this young season, by one goal each, and while nobody’s really happy with the results most everyone agrees it will take a little time for the young group to find itself.

“We’re still trying to figure out who we are,’’ first-year coach Ryan Pratt said. “When you bring in 18 new players there’s a lot of trying to figure out what system we’re going to play and we’re still trying to find out what system best showcases our players, how they fit in that system and what they’re capable of doing in that system.’’

Despite all the new faces on the 26-man roster, Pratt’s not one to make excuses and is not one to short-sheet his process.

“As long as we keep learning we’ll be fine,’’ he said. “It’s going to be a process and I know that, our staff knows that, our players know that. You’re so competitive you want to skip steps in the process and that’s kind of where we are but that’s not going to happen. You can’t skip steps in the process, unfortunately, and right now we are laying the foundation of that process and it will take time.’’

The two close losses to open the season, 1-0 to Georgia State and 2-1 to Siena, played out in different fashion.

Georgia State was an NCAA Tournament team last season and returned nine starters.

“We’re the exact opposite, we returned two starters,’’ Pratt said. “So, to be in the game with them until the last two or three minutes and have a couple of opportunities to win the game, I wasn’t pleased with the result but was pleased with how we played considering where we are in the process.’’

He was pretty disappointed with the Siena loss.

“I felt like that was a game we could have and should have won,’’ he said. “We didn’t because our group doesn’t understand yet how to play every game and what it takes to win every game. We just thought we were going to show up and things were going to take care of themselves so we didn’t give the kind of effort it takes to win games and that was kind of disappointing.’’

As the team is finding its way, Pratt, who wasn’t hired until mid-February, said some of the few returners have been a pleasant surprise.

“Some of those are returning players who have experience and have a season at least we are able to rely and that has enabled them to play a little better than I expected,’’ he said.

The Dolphins get another chance Friday when they entertain Florida Atlantic at 8:30 p.m. at the Ashley Sports Complex as part of a soccer doubleheader. They will follow the women’s game scheduled at 6.

Pratt isn’t concerned about the relatively late start time, in fact, says the team relishes night play. “It’s fine,’’ he said. “Our guys don’t really care when we play but we prefer to play at night. As long as there’s not an overtime in the women’s game prior and we don’t have an overtime where we’re finishing at 11:30 or something crazy like that, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.’’

FAU comes into the game with a 0-1-1 record having lost to UCF. FAU’s had a game scheduled earlier this week with Bryant but it was postponed by Hurricane Isaac.

Sunday, Florida International comes to town before JU heads out on a three-game road trip.

FIU is 1-0 having beaten Bryant and has North Florida on its schedule Friday.

Both games will be shown on free of charge.

- Jim Nasella