BURLINGTON – Despite winning the America East Conference title, last season ended too soon for the University of Vermont men’s soccer team.

“Losing at home in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Villanova, we certainly left plays on that field,” said longtime head coach Rob Dow. “To see that [and] remember that definitely burns in the soul to come back out here.”

But games like that build character for the Catamounts. “You can’t replace championship game [and] NCAA tournament game experience.” said Dow. “We have that.”

The teams’ 2021 points leader, Alex Nagy, agreed. “Everyone felt how it felt to lose that game, and not a single person enjoyed it,” he said.

22 of the players who endured that loss are back on the Virtue Field turf to give it another go this season. “We kind of have our core group of guys that have played together for over a year now,” said starting goalkeeper Nate Silveira. “That definitely helps us a lot. We’re always trying to focus on building that chemistry and just become as dangerous as we can, and trying to become the best team we can be.”

This team believes they have what it takes to compete in the NCAA tournament again this season. “It’s no question that we have the team to do it. We have the confidence in ourselves that we can play against any team whether it’s here or at their place and get past that first round.”

Head coach Dow agrees, but he also knows that a successful team is based on more than just personnel. “You look at this team on paper, it looks like we have the tools to be competitive all season,” said the Head Coach. “But then it comes down to the culture we can establish on the team [and] the connections the guys can make in the locker room.”

With so many familiar faces, this doesn’t appear to be an issue. The main issue at hand is trying to stave off teams looking to overtake the Cats as the best team in the conference.

“Championship season, NCAA tournament team…in the region number two, in conference number two,” said Dow. “We have a target on our backs. Every game is going to feel like a hard game because our opponents are gonna want to beat us.”

As the first game of the season is quickly approaching, a positive attitude persists among teammates. “All these guys are close, they’re all family to me,” said Nagy. “Everyone’s so excited to be back here playing again. You can just see it and feel it.”