Everything Eagles: In Todd we trust

Men’s soccer might have a completely different look, but the team’s goals have not changed. Just ask its head coach.

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Everything Eagles: In Todd we trust

Austin Green, Managing Editor

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This story was originally published in print on Oct. 4, 2018.

Upon meeting Biola men’s soccer head coach Todd Elkins, the first thing you notice is his beard. His massive, scraggly mess of facial hair grows back in the summers after he shaves it every spring. It is a cycle of reinvention, something Elkins is used to after over a decade running high school and college soccer programs.

This season, however, requires a little extra shaving and a little extra growth. Elkins’ team had the dubious distinction of being the only Biola fall sport to place outside the top five in the PacWest standings last year, disqualifying them from National Christian College Athletic Association postseason play due to a department-imposed requirement.

Then, the Eagles lost seven senior starters to graduation.

“Normally, you’d like to have more than half of your starting lineup, guys getting high minutes, be returners because they have history together,” Elkins said. “So for those seven [new starters], they don’t have any of that history.”

Since the Eagles are now in their final year before full NCAA membership, one could see how it would be easy to use this season to focus on developing younger players with an eye towards the future. However, that is not Elkins’ mentality.  

“I’m not one to concede a season by calling it a rebuilding year, rebuilding team, say that we’ve got to just learn from this year to the next,” Elkins said.

Elkins’ .636 winning percentage is the highest of any Biola men’s soccer coach ever, so he has earned the benefit of the doubt. But can even he guide such an inexperienced team to an NCCAA tournament berth? The way he sees it, he does not have any other choice.

“I’ve got a group of seniors that worked hard to get where they are and in terms of postseason, that’s what they have,” Elkins said. “I think it’s there for the taking.”

EARLY-SEASON TINKERING

Elkins readily admits his staff has tinkered with the Eagles’ strategy and personnel “more so than usual” because of the heavy roster turnover. Senior defender Parker Setran says the team is trying out at least one new formation this year to adjust to its roster, which features 13 new freshmen and transfers.

“I have my preferences, as all coaches do,” Elkins said. “But I still believe that your players, the strengths and tendencies of your players can dictate what system we should use… sometimes that’s hard to figure out when you don’t know your players as well as you might on a given year.”

However, Elkins is adamant that in order for the Eagles to be successful this year, he has to settle on a set strategy and starting lineup before the season progresses too far.

“At some point, you got to commit to what you’re doing,” Elkins said. “You still have to say this is who we are, this is what we’re going to do, and we’re going to stick with the game plan. So if we’re not there yet, we have to be there soon.”

‘WE’RE GETTING THERE MORE AND MORE EVERY DAY’

No on-field approach will work without strong chemistry inside and outside of games. To help expedite that process with so many new faces, Elkins has given the team’s two captains, Setran and senior midfielder Kousei Mattox, more of a platform than he has in years past, including letting them talk to the team before he does during halftimes.

The main way he wants them and the rest of the upperclassmen to lead, however, is by example. That works just fine for Setran and Mattox.

“We’re not loud, but the way we kind of lead is a lot of just one-on-one conversations, like pulling [guys] aside, telling them like what they need to do, how they need to improve, like what they can work on in an encouraging way,” Setran said. “Kousei and I don’t see it as like we’re always giving the public speeches, we’re always trying to motivate the guys. We’re all one team and we’re all trying to collaborate together and figure out what we need to do to succeed.”

So far, Elkins is impressed with how the Eagles’ new leadership is communicating and modeling the way Biola men’s soccer plays while bringing the new players into the fold.

“Those guys lead. They speak first, and other guys reinforce it in action and sometimes in word, and then all our new guys know… and the next thing you know there’s not two groups anymore,” Elkins said. “That’s all we want. And I actually think we’re getting there, more and more every day.”

About the Writer
Austin Green, Managing Editor

Austin Green is a junior journalism major who was first among his friends to predict that LeBron James would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. When not focused on school or work, he enjoys watching sports, going to the beach or coffee shops, and hanging out with the guys on his dorm floor.

[email protected]

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Sarah

That title!

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