DU Men’s Soccer Enters New Season With High Expectations
Team is recognized nationally for success on the field and in the classroom
When you are coming off back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and an appearance in the final four, it’s difficult not to be considered one of the best teams in the country. That’s where the University of Denver men’s soccer team finds itself. The Pioneers are ranked No. 3 as they prepare for the regular season to launch this Friday against Florida Gulf Coast. But don’t think the team is letting that become a distraction.
“I don’t think anybody cares about that, because we are only ranked this year because of what the group did last year,” says forward Andre Shinyashiki, who led the Summit League last year with five game-winning goals.
Three of the players who graduated from that group last year — Kortne Ford, Sam Hamilton and Reagan Dunk — are now playing in the MLS.
“Those guys were obviously exceptional leaders and exceptional players,” says captain Graham Smith. “But the beauty of this program is that it’s not predicated on bringing in players just to fill roles, it’s about development. We have a lot of great players that are ready to fill those roles.”
Nineteen players are back from last year’s team, including three of the top scorers. The Pioneers know the experience of making it to the program’s first-ever College Cup will be invaluable this season.
“I think we learned a lot from that experience,” Smith says. “I think our inexperience came out during the semifinals, but now, heading into this year, it’s a great source of experience and something we can use going forward.”
Jamie Franks is entering his third year as head coach of the program. He’s the reigning coach of the year and has only lost two games since taking over as the Pioneers’ bench boss. While the success on the field has been remarkable, Franks is just as proud of what his team has accomplished off the field.
“We are the No. 3 team in the country, but we have the No. 1 GPA in the country, and we have for the past two years. We are very active in the community. It’s great that people are seeing the wins and recognizing the wins, but this is definitely a holistic organization, and we take the most pride in the student-athlete experience,” Franks says.
The overall success on and off the field has college soccer paying close attention to the University of Denver, and it’s attention the team welcomes.
“Our mentality has been we are not going to think and worry about that,” says forward Blake Elder. “We knew we were going to be highly ranked, and we knew there would be a target on our back. Everyone is going to want and come and beat us. We welcome that and we know that is going to push us to our highest ability.”