If you ask any player on the Virginia Tech men’s soccer team what kind of role injuries have played on his team this season, he’ll tell you that it’s been quite demoralizing.
The Hokies have had five players miss at least two games due to injury, including three members of the starting lineup.
Regarding the starters, freshman midfielder Connor Swartz tore his ACL in the first game of the season, defender DeVante DuBose just returned after missing four games with a quadriceps injury and Will Witherspoon will miss the entire season due to an ankle injury.
In Tech’s game last Friday against NC State, leading goal scorer David Clemens also went down with a back injury in the 48’. The Hokies dodged a bullet when Clemens was able to reenter the game virtually unphased.
“It didn’t really affect me. I was back up and I was fine,” Clemens said.
Other notable injuries include freshman defender Hunter Jecius and freshman forward Kai Marshall.
Jecius, who has received significant playing time tallying one goal on the season, has missed two games due to a concussion injury while Marshall has missed the first 11 games due to a stress fracture in his shin.
Head coach Mike Brizendine expressed his disappointment with the team’s injury situation.
“It’s very frustrating as we sit and look down our bench and see the guys that could be helping us win these games," Brizendine said, "both ACC and non-ACC games. And I know that’s a frustration within our group.”
“As we continue to rebuild this program, we are very dependent on our top guys being able to play. As we have to continue to go further and further down the bench, we get thinner and thinner.”
Marshall echoed familiar feelings.
“We have a lot of key guys that are out right now that could be huge for our team," Marshall said. "Like Will Witherspoon and Connor Swartz: I think we really need them on the field.”
Will Witherspoon is a player who has been brought up repeatedly when members of the team are asked who they think the team is missing the most this season.
“He had a lot of minutes last year and he had a lot of good looks. He didn’t score on those looks but I think when he gets comfortable, he’s a goal scorer,” Brizendine said.
Witherspoon, now a sophomore, saw significant action as a forward last year playing in all 18 games and starting three as a true freshman.
When asked who had stepped up most due to injuries this season, coach Brizendine mentioned Connor Pompilio’s name without the slightest hint of hesitation.
“He’s been a breath of fresh air. He’s worked great, he gets after things, he created some fouls here, he created some opportunities over there. I can’t tell you how pleased I am with him and the steps that he has made.”
Pompilio’s solid play has also been reflected in the box score where he has notched two goals and one assist in just four starts.
Despite the large amount of injuries that have plagued the Hokies this season, neither the players nor the coaches are making excuses.
“We need to be better with the group that we have," Brizendine said. "You saw with the group that we had (Tuesday night) we should have won or definitely should have scored a goal. We put ourselves in great positions. I’ll tell you that that was the same case in Longwood, and against NJIT.”
On a more positive note, the team has already won more games than it did all of last year.
“I think next year if everyone is healthy, we are going to be 10 times better of a team,” Marshall said on his expectations of the team going forward.
The Hokies are currently trying to fight their way out of the last two seeds in the ACC. If they finish last or second to last in the conference, they will be a part of a play-in-game in which the winner will face the Maryland Terrapins in College Park. The Terps have already handed Tech a loss earlier in the season at the same location by a score of 2-0.
The men’s soccer team has two games this week: A midweek home matchup against a Howard squad that defeated them 2-1 last year, and a crucial ACC game in Charlottesville against rival Virginia.