MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2014
Men's Soccer Wraps Spring Slate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It’s been a little while since the Jacksonville University men’s soccer team has graced Southern Oak Stadium with their presence. After nearly a five-month hiatus, fans flocked to the field last week to watch the Dolphins conclude their four-match spring schedule.

JU not only got a preview of what is to come but were also introduced to two new faces- Head Coach Mauricio Ruiz and Assistant Coach Patrick Cannon.

“I liked the fact that we have a lot of honest workers and a lot of kids that want to get better,” said Ruiz. “They are just soaking in information and the best thing is that they are able to apply and transfer all the knowledge they learned. What I really liked is that we got better every week but one thing I want to work on is the quality of our depth.”

Ruiz joined the Dolphins earlier this year after spending the last six years at Central Florida. As part of its spring slate, JU played Warner, Rollins, UCF and Jacksonville United. Before diving into the talk of the spring, Ruiz had this to say about facing his former team:

“It was interesting and a different experience and I couldn’t have anticipated how that would feel. There was an emotional build up to it but once the game got going it was like I didn’t know who was on the other side. It was nice to be able to catch up and talk to the players that I had created a relationship with and I’m pretty honored that they took me back in so well but once the ball got rolling it was all about JU soccer.”

INTERVIEW WITH COACH RUIZ

Q: What do you envision JU’s soccer style to be known for and how close are you to playing that way?

We want to be an up-tempo team. We want to play quick, play ball on the ground and we want to be attractive. We want our fans to enjoy the product that they see. On the defensive side, we want a very aggressive, hard pressing, work team that recovers really well and anticipates plays. I want fans and alumni to come out and watch us play -- win, lose, or draw and be entertained. We are closer [to the goal] than I thought when coming in. I think the way that we want to play requires our players to be intelligent and have a great understanding of the game, and that’s what we have. We have some good and intelligent players. I think we have to improve on our overall athleticism- our quickness and our explosiveness but that was being done this spring. Athletically, our work rate in the weight room was really good. We just have to avoid injuries and be as injury free as we can.

Q: The spring allowed you to get an idea of where you are. What areas do you need to improve on and what gaps do you need to fill?

We are fortunate enough to have pulled some great recruits. After a month of being here we realized what we needed and what we need to fill.  We’ve been able to fill some holes in our backline and add some depth to some other positions. We are happy with what we have but we are looking to bring in about six or seven players. It’s really going to be a spread in depth for a few positions and competition in a few other positions. We’re bringing players that are going to compete for starting roles.

Q: How would you recap the spring overall?

It went well. We got better every single game and I addressed that with the players. Every spring game was an opportunity to learn- win, lose or draw. We had a little bit of all of that. We drew a couple games, we won a couple games, and we lost one game.  At the conclusion of every game the mentality was what did we get out of that game and did we improve on the things that we talked about coming in. Overall, a very very promising spring. From my perspective, it was a growth through the spring. Two months later, we came out of it better than we came in which as a coach is all you can ask for. Knowing that, we can always get better but in two months we saw improvement. We’re happy to have had the guys back and it’s unfortunate that we don’t see them for another four months.

INTERVIEW WITH COACH CANNON



When Coach Cannon isn’t on the sidelines for the Fins, he serves as the head coach for JAX United, and in JU’s final spring game- he suited up with the National Premier Soccer League squad.

Q: In the last game, we noticed you were out there playing with JAX United. What was it like having two hats on- coaching and playing against the Dolphins?

For me it was good. It gave me a different perspective to be playing against the guys. Being on the field over being on the sidelines, gave me the chance to see different things that they did well and also some things that they could improve on. It was definitely different but it was a good experience.

Q: Any cheap shots?

No (smiles) …. Absolutely not.

Q: What are you most looking forward to here?

I think I’ve been here for about a month and a half now and the transition was very good and the guys on the team have been tremendous. Coach and I are very excited about the future here. I’m exciting about being a part of building a program and starting from where we are now and seeing the potential we have. I’m just looking forward to seeing through the process.

With the spring schedule officially under wraps, fans have much to look forward to. In the coming weeks, the team will release its 2014 signees as well as the upcoming schedule.