Nathan Bell was pulling 12-hour days at a residential coaching clinic in Orangeburg, N.Y. when he received a phone call from John Jay College athletic director Carol Kashow offering him the job as the school’s new men’s soccer coach.
Bell was excited about the opportunity and accepted on the spot, but soon the euphoria turned to angst when Bell realized that the season was just three weeks away.
During lunch and dinner breaks at the coaching clinic, Bell called returning players to get their statuses all while also trying to assemble a coaching staff. “We had seven returning players, but four had pending issues that could keep them out for the whole season,” Bell said. “So it’s basically a team of walk-on’s.”
John Jay plays in the NCAA Division III CUNY Athletic Conference. Although no athletic scholarships are awarded at the D-III level, coaches still spend a lot of time recruiting, but given Bell’s timeline that wasn’t possible.
“I was there late so I announced tryouts and team meetings and from there made the cuts and that’s the team we went with,” Bell said.
This is Bell’s first stint at the helm of a collegiate soccer team. One of four candidates who were interviewed for the job, Bell had previously coached youth teams and also coached in the New York Red Bulls Academy.
Kashow said that even though Bell didn’t have the collegiate experience he still had great soccer experience and overall felt he had what it took to succeed. “He was on the same wavelength as myself as far as building a program and not just preparing for one season. And that’s what we’re looking to do here,” Kashow said. “The soccer culture has changed a great deal and we’re on an excellent path with him”
The team he has assembled this season has endured some lopsided losses. In their first seven games, the Bloodhounds played a heavy non-conference schedule against strong teams from New Jersey Athletic Conference. In that seven-game span (all losses), John Jay gave up 36 goals while only scoring six.
Even though the Bloodhounds were blow out 10-0 by William Patterson and to Rowan (6-0), Bell said that there was still plenty of motivation to keep the team from burying the heads.
“We have a specific goal of winning the CUNY tournament,” He said. “There is a lot of improvement that has to happen before then, but luckily these loses don’t count against us.”
The top eight teams from the CUNYAC make the season-ending tournament. So as long as John Jay doesn’t finish ninth, the Bloodhounds can play their way to the NCAAs by winning the CUNY Tournament.
“It’s often that the CUNY teams will lose to the good Jersey teams,” Bell said. “Last years champions, Baruch, went 0-4-1 to start last year and then won the CUNY tournament, so there are a lot of reasons to stay positive.”
The Bloodhounds have made some progress in the last four games. They exploded for four goals in a tie with NYU-Poly and have propped up the defense only allowing five goals in the last three games, including a 1-0 shutout of CCNY on Wednesday night, their first win of the season.
“Starting the season, I’m not sure if everyone had been really taught how to play defense at all,” Bell said. “So we had people who were just running off by themselves trying to bring a challenge, and when you play these good organized teams, they are going to play around you, and that’s what happened.”
The Bloodhounds are now 1-1-0 in conference play and are still looking to stay positive.
“I’ve brought in a new system that took some time to learn, and now we have some winnable games,” Bell said. “Our preseason is over, and we’re looking at our conference schedule as our regular season, and we’re at a point where we can win games as well.”
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