It hasn’t been the best of times for the Randolph-Macon Men’s Soccer Program since Joshua Laux left the program in 2003 to coach at Hampden-Sydney. The Yellow Jackets haven’t seen a winning season since 2005 and have seen double digit numbers in the losses column 7 out of the last 9 years. However, the newly appointed coach is looking to turn the direction of the program around in his inaugural season.
After graduating in 2002, Laux led the team to the conference finals in his first season as an assistant at R-MC, and to the semi-finals the year after that.
“I feel a big sense of responsibility [coaching at his alma mater]. I want this program to get back to the level it was in the early 2000s,” Laux stated. Although it will be no easy task after almost a decade of disappointment, Laux is very excited about the opportunity.
“The goal is to take it one step at a time,” Laux explained. “I like the student body here. It’s blue-collar and it fits my playstyle, which will play a big role in recruiting.”
As for the here and now, the Yellow Jackets have been picked to finish 8th in the conference this year. Despite that, Laux is very upbeat on his team’s chances.
“The ODAC is one of the deepest conferences in the nation,” Laux stated. “There is a lot of talent. The good thing is we are not far from the top, but we aren’t far away from the bottom.”
He reiterated that the main challenge for this program will be to learn to win again. Laux and his coaching staff are already very happy with their players.
“They came into preseason in great shape and they are a very eager and determined squad,” Laux said.
The Yellow Jackets will definitely need some determination to help turn it around this season. One of the main problems for the Yellow Jackets last fall was their attack and composure in front of the net. In 11 of the 17 games last season they failed to score more than 1 goal and got shut out in 10 of them. Coach Laux believes he has helped fix that problem by bringing in some goal scorers in the freshman class.
The Yellow Jackets will aslo be looking to cut down the number of unnecessary fouls that led to goals last season and will take their chances knowing that their opponents will have a tougher time trying to play through their defense. One factor the coaching staff preached was team defending.
“The difference is this year our attack will be our first line of defense,” Laux said.
He emphasized that during this season the team will be pressing high and pressing often. The Yellow Jackets are going to be taking the game right to their opponents in hopes of catching lazier teams by surprise and creating a more exciting game for the home fans. One thing Laux was hopeful about was the fan support of the R-MC student body and Ashland community.
“One thing I had when I was playing here was unbelievable crowd support,” Laux explained. “We want to recreate that atmosphere and I know that we can do it. Their support can help us get those extra 2 or 3 wins and help us lock up a playoff position.”
The atmosphere has clearly been changed for the R-MC Men’s Soccer program, and hopefully the numbers in the wins and losses columns will change as well. With a revitalized attack and energized defense there are no limits for this team. When asked what a realistic goal was for the season, Laux was uncertain.
“I’m not sure what is realistic for us yet,” Laux answered, “but I can tell you one thing. We will be fun to watch.”
-Blake Saathoff ’17, Junior Sports Editor