Thu, Sep. 20, 2012 - [Men's Soccer]
Article Courtesy of Adam Fenster, The Oracle, University of South Florida
After the USF men's soccer team lost a big weapon on the attack last year when forward Dom Dwyer left the team, a leader needed to step up and fill his cleats.
Former junior college teammate to Dwyer and current senior midfielder Kyle Nicholls is trying to do just that.
While Dwyer helped lead USF to the Elite Eight with his ability to score, Nicholls looks to lead the charge this year, roaming the field and controlling the offense and defense from the center midfielder position.
At Tyler Junior College the trio of Dwyer, Nicholls and defender Brenton Griffiths helped bring national championships in 2009 and 2010. Through those two years, Nicholls helped lead the team to 42 straight games unbeaten, with a record of 41-0-1.
"Kyle is consistent. He's one of the voices we have on the team," Coach George Kiefer said. "He always keeps the team organized, keeps a buzz about the group, and keeps good energy among the team."
Coming off a weekend that started with a 2-2 draw at Butler and ended with a 5-0 loss to Akron, USF looks to respond strongly as it heads into the Big East schedule.
Kiefer said he looks for Nicholls to help the team in moments of adversity.
"Soccer, when you really break it down, compared to what life throws at you, it's really not that big of an issue," he said. "You can take the example that is adversity. It was something that we weren't expecting, and I have a bunch of good men and they're going to respond the right way. Then when they hit a tough road five or 10 years from now, they'll be equipped with the tools on how to deal with that the right way and Kyle is a good leader in that sense."
When Dwyer and Nicholls decided to sign with USF in 2011, Nicholls took on the role of starting midfielder, playing in all 17 games for a Bulls team that went 7-0-1 in the Big East.
He said Kiefer told him he needed him to "control the team, as sort of the spine of the formation," which allowed Nicholls to dish out two assists in 2011, sixth on the team.
Much has changed for the England native, who for the first time in three years has been playing without his good friend Dwyer, who went pro last year, signing with Kansas City after being drafted No. 16 in the 2012 MLS Super Draft.
According to Nicholls, he and Dwyer "still stay in touch, texting every day and stuff."
Now Nicholls looks to take the helm of an attack that was so feared just a season ago.
While he has yet to score a goal this season, his mentality and presence on the field is helping cultivate scorers and leaders in some of the younger players on the team.
"I just have to be loud and keep the team going - keep them organized defensively and when we attack we have to attack together," Nicholls said.
The midfielder said the team is ready and excited to head into conference play.
"Everyone has a bit more spring in their step," Nicholls said. "This is where it all starts, this is what can make or break your season. It's my last season in college. This has got to be everything now. Everyone is buzzing for it."
Nicholls and USF will take the field Saturday against Providence. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Corbett Soccer Stadium.