Final Fall Stretch Features Optimism and Desperation

Denver Men’s Soccer (2-9-2, 0-2-1 Summit League) find themselves in an unusual position following a Saturday 1-0 OT loss to Oral Roberts on the road. They may miss their own hosted Summit League tournament unless they win their next two games against Omaha and Fort Wayne. Currently, Denver is mired near the bottom of the standings with Eastern Illinois (0-1-2) and Purdue Fort Wayne (0-3-0). DU must pass both teams in the next two games to finish in fourth place and qualify for the conference tournament in Denver from November 14th-16th. By any measure, this would be a shocking result.

Jamie Franks’ frustration boiled over following a 4-3 loss to Western Illinois October 12th. “I’m very disappointed with my group,” head coach Jamie Franks said. “The mentality of the group was wrong. We just got outworked today. The success of the program has always been built on three things that you can control: your positioning, your work rate, and your mentality. This season, this team’s work rate and their mentality have been poor. They have not been open to criticism. There has not been ownership every day to try to bring their best and get better. For that, we haven’t gotten results.

But it didn’t get better, as another conference loss followed to Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Despite the disappointing results, Franks is not only a taskmaster with his players but he is equally tough on himself and a proponent of self-improvement. Everything is still possible, a conference tournament win and NCAA appearance, but the turnaround must begin this week against Omaha which is a must-win game. Denver must shore up their midfield play, control pace of play and set-up opportunities for their struggling offense.

Things are going significantly better with head coach Jeff Hooker’s Denver women’s soccer team, sitting at 7-4-3 and 3-0-1 in the Summit League. They are trailing South Dakota State 5-0-0 but face the Jackrabbits October 31st, the next to last game of the regular season with a chance to win the regular-season title. Wins against Omaha (2-0) and South Dakota (1-0) this past week leave them with a trip to North Dakota and three games in Denver before the Summit League Tournament in Brookings, South Dakota.

DU women’s volleyball sits at 13-6, 5-2 Summit League. With wins at Omaha this week (3-2) and a sweep of Western Illinois (3-0) at Hamilton Gym, Denver is getting more consistent play, especially on offense. They have nine matches left as they cycle through the Summit League teams for a second time. This gives the Denver players and staff an opportunity to evaluate their relative progress against the rest of the conference. DU trails Fort Wayne (6-2) by half a game but South Dakota 8-0  appears to have a clear path to the regular-season title if they don’t stumble. The key for coach Tom Hogan with such a new team is consistency and offensive improvement so his team peaks for the Summit League Tournament to be held in Denver November 22nd-24th. Overall, they are exactly where they thought they would be at the start of the season with South Dakota being their biggest threat for Summit League supremacy with a 19-1 overall record for the Coyotes.

And top-ranked Denver Hockey? Well they’re pretty good, too.

8 thoughts on “Final Fall Stretch Features Optimism and Desperation”

  1. The men’s soccer meltdowns against Summit League teams are deeply disappointing in what has become a season from hell for coach Franks and his team.

    Honestly, Franks may be publicly disappointed with the mentality, work rate and performance of his DU team, but there are two aspects of this season that he needs to be realistic about:

    First is a brutal, brutal road-heavy schedule against many national top-ranked teams that produced loss after loss. Losing at any level gets into a team’s head. While scheduling that level of opponent is great when your team is very competitive, this year, DU is just not at that kind of level as team, and now the psyche of the team is producing losses to Summit teams, too.

    The second and even more important factor is a huge, gaping talent drop off with this team from previous DU teams – that is a function of recruiting. There is NO ONE on this current DU team playing at a level of recent DU stars such as Andre Shinyashiki, Kortne Ford, Karstin Hanlin, Reagan Dunk, Sam Hamilton, Scott DeVoss, etc. There has been a lot of turnover in DU assistant coaches in recent years, and that might explain part of the recruiting failures, but Jamie just doesn’t have the horses this year, and he and his staff need to find more talented players. Coaching up character players only goes so far – you need to have top level players to be a top level program.

    Jamie is still very young with a lot of promise as a head coach.

    I know he will learn and grow from this experience.

  2. I finally figured out how to respond here without going through CIA log-in scrutiny. Since the 2018 season ended, I followed Jamie’s recruiting. It appeared that he was bringing in an especially large frosh/transfer recruiting class. The write up on each player made it appear that we would have the best class ever recruited. Something went amiss. Did some of those studs not enroll? One kid was the youngest player ever to get into a top tier English team training program. (perhaps akin to USA Hockey top tier under 18’s) Is this young man on our roster? I never imagined we would be struggling for a SLT spot.

    1. The player you are talking about who went to Aston Villa is Callum Stretch. He is the probably the team’s best player, but he’s a sophomore now. DU had two other promising freshmen last year quit the team before this season – promising fullback Gideon Davis went back to play in Barcelona and solid local Jared Jungjohann just quit. The current freshmen have been underwhelming to date, as have the transfers who came in – Drack, Barlow, Judd, Russo, etc. All in all, everyone is shocked at how far things have slid this year…

      1. Not a big one for conspiracies but I thought Omaha’s tie with Eastern Illinois last weekend was interesting. It put Denver squarely on the bubble. Omaha is already in and conference members may coast against Eastern so Denver becomes a spectator at their own tournament. Either way, DU is in a bind.

  3. No question it’s been tough sledding for the men’s soccer team. It’s definitely odd to look up and see a record of 2-9-3 overall and 0-2-1 in the conference. I hope these guys can find some magic in the next couple of weeks.

    I’ve only been to one game this year. DU prevailed, but it definitely wasn’t the same polished or tenacious effort that I’ve been used to seeing.

  4. It is looking like Franks failed to take advantage of the short but very valuable recruiting window right after DU made the final four a couple/few years ago. Remember, it was DU, Stanford, Wake Forest, and another team…I mean…wow, what a chance to build the program and recruit some top-50 players. Maybe even some top-25 players who are either from Colorado, or want to join an up and coming program. Time fades, we are now 2-9, and I’m guessing we have lost a lot of momentum. Franks is a good coach, he can continue to build the program. But he also needs to stop saying that they are competing for a national title. Rings hollow when you are 2-9.

  5. Nice to see all the soccer comments here.

    Soccer culture is growing in America, and while it’s never going to be the biggest sport on the DU campus, I do think DU could certainly build this sport to be fall version of what DU men’s lacrosse is in the springtime, with student tailgates, band/cheer support, and perhaps a dedicated student section on the hill behind the South goal by the tennis courts. It would take some time and effort, but it could done for a minimal investment if they cared enough to do it.

    For DU to want to do that, I think Franks and Co. need to bring in a higher level of soccer talent than is here right now. Having high character kids with great grades is a great thing to have on your team and DU does a great job with that, but they also need to be elite soccer players, too. When you watch DU this year, there isn’t anyone who really stands out. And for the team to be losing to a variety of Summit League opponents is downright shocking for this program.

Leave a Reply