The most challenging part of dealing with a young program, UNO soccer coach Jason Mims says, is developing a winning mentality.
That's where a player like junior defender Felipe da Silva can come in handy.
“On a young team, you want someone a little bit older and experienced who has that mentality that when things aren't going well to keep the guys positive,” Mims said.
Da Silva, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is smart, strong and tough, Mims said, qualities that the Mavs rely on every game. He's yet to come out of a match this season.
That's just the way he likes it.
“I love playing all the minutes and helping the team and helping to win games,” da Silva said.
On Monday, da Silva was named the Summit League co-defensive player of the week after leading the Mavs in a 2-1 win over defending Summit champion Western Illinois on Saturday and a 1-1 draw with UMKC last Tuesday.
The Mavericks held UMKC to two shots on goal and Western Illinois to four. They are tied for second in the league with 13 goals allowed and third with a 1.56 goals against average.
“I think it starts with our pressure,” Mims said. “That's one thing we've done very, very well this year. You put a team under pressure and you don't give up as many chances.”
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Da Silva also has contributed to the offense, with three shots last week, two on goal. He said the whole back row can score, with great headers who have been working hard to get something out of the Mavs' set pieces.
Those contributions on offense are crucial, Mims said, because it's so hard to manufacture goals. UNO has eight in eight games.
“If the defenders are getting chances, all the goals add up,” he said. “I really encourage that from those guys.”
The Mavs will need all the scoring they can get Wednesday when they host Milwaukee (7-0-1) at 4 p.m. at UNO Soccer Field.
The Panthers, ranked 27th by CollegeSoccerNews.com, have a six-game winnig streak and have allowed just six goals. Freshman Liam Anderson has played every minute in goal and has a .824 save percentage with a 0.72 goals against average.
UNO (2-5-1) doesn't have as gaudy of a record, but da Silva and Mims like the direction the Mavs are headed. UNO has been unlucky a few times, da Silva said, but he can tell the Mavs' hard work is starting to pay off.
Although he says he's a good header, excels at 1-on-1 defense and hopes to play professionally one day, da Silva said earning an award like he did Monday could have happened to anyone.
“The whole team is getting better every day,” he said.
Mims said he's very happy with where the Mavs are, and has been all season. Last year, they were OK. This year, he said, they're good.
Now, Mims wants to get his team to play with winning confidence every game. If they're behind, he wants them to rally. If they're ahead, he wants them to score again and put a team away.
“We're playing really, really well,” he said. “We're definitely on the right track.”