Schreiner’s Caleb Hernandez launches a pass during a scrimmage on Aug. 25 at Schreiner University. Hernandez and the Moutaineers are hoping to make the conference tournament this season.

Before Schreiner’s men’s soccer practice begins on Tuesday, second-year coach Casey Collins takes a moment to share his vision for his program.

He has many ambitious plans for Mountaineers soccer. He wants his players to compete for championships in the near future, to excel in the classroom and to improve their footprint in the community.

“Each year, we want to take this program and raise it up a notch every single year,” Collins said “To the point where we are competing for the conference championship and have the highest GPA in Schreiner athletics.”

Senior midfielder Daniel Banda also has high aspirations for this season, but his goal is much simpler — he just wants to play in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament before he graduates.

Banda has enjoyed a successful career at Schreiner. He’s a team captain and has already netted a goal through four games this season. But there’s one accomplishment he still hasn’t been able to cross off on his college checklist: He has yet to participate in the SCAC tournament. He’s hoping that changes this season.

“That’s been the most frustrating part: The fact that we have been close to making (the tournament),” Banda said. “We just need to find those last couple of wins to make the conference tournament (this year).”

So far, the Mountaineers have produced mixed results on the pitch, posting a 1-2-1 record. The good news? After going 3-14-2 in 2018, the Mountaineers have improved significantly since then. And they still have six remaining matches — six more opportunities to continue improving — before they open SCAC play on Oct. 4 at Trinity.

“We are more competitive than we were last year. … I think we are disappointed that we are 1-2-1 right now. If you look back at the four games, we should be 3-1 probably,” Collins said. “With us being a young team, we are still learning how to win. … We are definitely hungry for some more wins.”

Collins is a native of Washington. That’s where he played college soccer and began his coaching career. He moved to Texas to become an assistant at the University of Houston-Victoria, an NAIA school. During his three seasons at UHV, the men’s soccer team went 36-13-4. Still, he always dreamed of being a college head soccer coach. So when the job at Schreiner became open in late 2017, Collins pounced on the opportunity.

He admits his first year at Schreiner was challenging. He began in January of 2018, so he was behind in the recruiting process.

And he also learned that recruiting at a NCAA Division-III school is a challenge in itself. Schreiner likes recruiting local players, but knows that a lot of kids prefer to leave the area when they attend college. The school wants to attract the best athletes possible, but can’t offer athletic scholarships. So, Schreiner coaches have to adopt a wholistic approach to recruiting, considering a player’s personality, academic aspirations and athletic talent before making an offer.

Collins had to navigate all those recruiting obstacles in his first season.

He then had to build relationships with his new players — figuring how to get the best out of each of them — while also welcoming 27 newcomers to the program.

During his first season, he knew it was going to take some time toestablish a rappart with his players.

“In year one, I was learning,” Collins said. “We all learned together. As a program, we grew. We were young last year. They were learning some of the same things I was learning last year.

“This year, people kind of understand what to expect from me and they kind of understand what we are about as a program. It’s not as much babysitting as it is getting guys on the same page. It’s been fun so far. It’s a good group of guys.”

That same group is currently toiling to elevate Schreiner soccer’s profile in the community. It’s another reason why Banda is hoping to play in the conference tournament this season.

“We are definitely more optimistic this year than last year. … We have older guys leading by committee,” Banda said. “Now that I am older, I have taken the reins of leading the team, motivating the team and leading them to where they want to be.”

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