Tim Blank, Broadside Correspondent

The men’s soccer team failed to make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament the year after their last appearance prior to last season. This year’s team feels as though they can buck that trend of two years ago and make a second straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Currently, the team has a 2-2 overall record after splitting a pair of games and finishing in third place in the Adidas Gamecock Classic in Columbia, S.C. Many of the players that are on the team think the current team has more talent than the one from last year.

“We’re slightly ahead of last year’s team; we’re playing well as a unit. We just have a few things to fix here and there,” said sophomore defender Eric Zuehsow.

The team will play the Longwood Lancers at George Mason Stadium on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Lancers lost 2-0 against the Old Dominion Monarchs at the beginning of the season and played against the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams on Sunday, so the team knows that the Lancers have played against some good competition so far during the season.

“They have a good program down there, so we have to be ready for them,” said Zuehsow.

What has always been apparent, even though the team has not yet fully developed a lot of team chemistry, is that the team has the confidence that is needed to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament this year and possibly make it even further than they did a year ago.

“We know that we have more talent than last year’s [team]. It’s a matter of us understanding each other,” said sophomore midfielder Ryan Gracia, who scored a goal in the season opener against the Howard Bison.

After the game against the Lancers, the team travels down to Richmond for a Saturday game against the Rams. Following that game is a rematch of their second round NCAA Tournament game from last season on Sept. 29, when they play the Maryland Terrapins.

“We want to perform better in big games, especially against Maryland,” said Zuehsow.

After those games, Mason will be challenged to defend their conference title against other CAA opponents for the rest of the season, and the players on the team are confident that they are going to win it back-to-back.

“We just need to gel. When we do come together, we’re going to be really good. It’s only a matter of time,” said Gracia.