While victories are impossible without scoring goals, the Emory University men’s soccer team relied on defense to secure a dominant 5-1-2 start to the season.
The Eagles’ defensive unit is anchored by senior goaltender Jack Hudson who has at times looked more like a brick wall than a goalie. In the eight games played by the men’s soccer team, he only let in four goals.
This is Hudson’s last season in an Emory uniform, but it’s also his first.
Prior to transferring to Emory as a junior, the Environmental Science major played his freshman and sophomore seasons at the University of Kentucky, where he was the substitute goaltender for the ranked Wildcats. on a national level.
As is often the case with substitutes, he struggled to find playing time, seeing action in just two games over a span of two seasons, while battling a recurring knee issue that has required surgery at the end of his second year. At that time, he was seriously considering giving up his football career.
âI was at a point where I didn’t want to play anymore,â said Hudson. “I had spent so much time doing this, and I lost sight of why I loved the sport.”
In addition to Hudson’s battles on the court, he was stuck in a major that he didn’t see fit for a future career. After weighing his options, he began filling out transfer requests during his sophomore winter break, not expecting to return to the field.
But when Emory offered him admission and a place on the football team, Hudson re-evaluated his love for the game. The big draw for Emory was his academics, but he also wanted the chance to play in front of his parents who live about 10 minutes from campus. Hudson says his parents have attended all of his games so far as an eagle, just like they did while he was growing up.
âIf my parents hadn’t done what they did, I never would have been able to do anything,â Hudson said. “I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Arriving as a transfer during the pandemic, Hudson knew he had to earn the respect of his teammates through hard work on and off the pitch.
Although Emory canceled Fall sporting competition last year, Hudson took advantage of the practice sessions and intra-team scrimmages the team was allowed to host, preparing for this season.
When Hudson arrived on campus about a month ago to begin his first official season at Emory, he was hungrier than ever to compete, but admits he was nervous as well. So far, he has proven his ability to perform under pressure.
âIt’s about being in touch with reality, in the moment,â said Hudson. âWhen your mind starts to drift, you have to focus again on the game that is unfolding in front of you. “
It didn’t take long for Hudson to establish himself as an effective shooter. Five games in the season it was appointed the University Athletic Association’s (UAA) men’s defensive soccer athlete of the week. The following week, Hudson has received the same honor again after picking up two more shutouts v Roanoke College (Va.) and Christopher Newport University (Va.).
While Hudson says the individual rewards are reassuring, he doesn’t care about them as much as finding ways to help his team win.
âThe goalie could win an award, but what matters most is how I can perform best to maximize our overall success,â said Hudson.
On the pitch, Hudson prides himself on giving his defense as much data as possible about the game. Because he can see the entire pitch from the goalie’s area, it’s Hudson’s job to tell a teammate if he has a man on him or where he needs to be.
Junior midfielder Joe Beare compares Hudson to a de facto on-field coach who brings a wealth of expertise to the game.
âJack is always the loudest player on the pitch when we have the ball and when we don’t,â Beare said. âIt’s on our backs when we don’t discipline ourselves like we should as college footballers. ”
So far, the back line has played a stifling defense, led by senior center-backs Josh Berman and junior Luke Price. Hudson credits the team’s defensive success to Berman and Price, who took the pressure off him as a goalie.
Hudson recognizes that there are areas of his game that he can take to the next level. He says raising his passing game would be invaluable for his team’s ‘back-playing’ style, where the attack starts with the goalkeeper and the back line using short passes to move the ball over. the land as a unit. For this style to work properly, the goalkeeper must pass accurately or the team runs the risk of losing the ball close to their goal.
âI want to improve on short, crisp keys,â said Hudson. “It’s a tough skill to do, not just the technical side but also the tactical side – recognizing when to play certain passes and when not.”
Hudson plans to develop his footwork with goaltending coach Felipe Quintero who trains with Hudson and the other goalies. By working with Quintero, as well as Cole Gallagher senior and Peter Wagner junior, Hudson believes he is acquiring valuable knowledge, noting that Quintero is one of the best coaches he has ever worked with.
âHe knows the role very well and has a lot of playing experience which helps us all to maximize our practice time,â said Hudson.
The entire coaching staff has always encouraged Hudson to take risks and supported him in his mistakes, but Hudson, like all goalies, holds himself to a standard of perfection. After letting in a winning game against the University of Calvin (Michigan), Hudson was disappointed, but he knows not to be put off by just one game.
âI’ve made tons of mistakes and mistakes, but if you start nitpicking at every little thing, you can find a thousand things you can do better,â said Hudson.
Hudson’s teammates were impressed with their new goalie and have confidence in Hudson as the last line of defense.
âAgainst Lynchburg University (Va.) He made the three best saves I’ve ever seen in the space of 15 minutes which kept us in the game,â said Beare. âI think we have the best Division III goaltender on our team. ”
With veteran players forming the base of the team and Hudson in goal, the men are set to win their first UAA title since 2012. Hudson, in particular, is up to the challenge.
âIf you’re trying to aim for something other than a championship, what’s the point of trying? “
Editor’s Note: Jack Hudson (22C) is a contributing writer for The Wheel.