Updated: Oct 3
Being up 2-0 with 30 minutes left in the Southern Conference men’s soccer semifinal — and then losing — was not how Belmont envisioned its season ending.
“We felt like it all ended too soon,” said head coach David Costa.
Yet, in the eyes of many, they were overachievers. Belmont was predicted to finish fifth out of seven teams, according to The SoCon Pre-season Soccer Coaches Poll.
The team had a brand new head coach and six new players on the team.
Men’s soccer vs VMI
To the outside world, they exceeded expectations. Somehow, the team managed to turn its season around just as conference play kicked off.
For the team, it was just the beginning.
Every great program has core values. Instilling those into Belmont soccer hasn’t come without challenge or adversity — but coach Costa welcomes both.
“The challenge is, you can’t do it all at once. The challenge is, it takes time. The challenge is, patience and perseverance. It’s growth from adversity.”
When Costa arrived at Belmont, the program was reeling. It was coming off back-to-back quarterfinal losses in the SoCon Tournament. Its combined record during that stretch was 9-21-4.
The team had no identity.
Costa took the job at Belmont aiming to instill the culture and value systems of a great soccer program.
“I knew what the values of the institution were, I knew what the values are in the athletic department and what they wanted their values to look like in our program. My values lined up with that,” said Costa. “I knew that what they were doing is important, and that is why I came here.”
The culture Costa fostered was simple. He wants his players to serve others and to serve each other.
More than an effective team, this approach has created lasting friendships. The players don’t just practice together, they hang out, watch soccer and choose to exist in one another’s lives.
“Coming here was the first time I’ve ever had a coach and teammates that really care about you,” said junior Jordan Dozzi. “They care about you on and off the field, and I’ve never had that before. It has been so influential to me.”
Junior Jordan Dozzi.
He’s not the only one on the team to echo that sentiment. Sophomore Niccolo Dagnoni feels how this team is different, he said. He sees how they do things together and how it makes playing on the field with one another so much easier.
“We watch soccer games together. When we eat, we eat together. It is simple things that make the huge difference,” sais Dagnoni.
For the players on the team, there is a direct correlation to the success they experienced in the second half of the season as opposed to the initial slow start.
Things just seemed to click. As they grew closer in friendship, everything on the pitch became easier, said Dozzi.
A team that can grow throughout the season in the ways Belmont’s did is a testament again, to the culture Costa instilled.
Sophomore Niccolo Dagnoni
What goes unnoticed is that this culture is built through recruiting.
Costa recruits based on character because he holds a firm belief that you can find great soccer players everywhere, but you can’t always find people with strong character in those same places, said Costa.
“Every player I bring in, I recruit them to our values. We don’t really talk about soccer. I ask questions to dig into who they are as a person. I’m looking for people with great character,” said Costa.
That consistent effort was a driving factor in how Belmont managed to turn its season around. If Costa’s first season is any indication of how things will end up, Belmont soccer could be headed for more success.
We have everyone here trying to reach the same goal,” said Dozzi.
However, Costa sees the big picture. He hopes that the players who go through his program look back on the time at Belmont with fond memories and life-long friends.
“Our goal is to have a program that, when the guys finish, they would give anything to have one more day,” said Costa. “And then five or 10 years from then, those guys are still interacting with each other.”
Article written by Ian Kayanja.