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Irakoze Donasiyano holds back Brandon Clegg as he adds pressure during JMU's game against U. Va.

JMU men’s soccer (9-4-1, 4-0-1 CAA) has been one of the strongest teams in the CAA this fall. The team’s recent eight-game winning streak and perfect home record makes it clear that the Dukes are a strong contender for the conference title. 

Like any team, chemistry between the athletes is vital for a successful season. Whether it’s during team-building activities or staying in hotels for away games, a team often becomes family. Men’s soccer at JMU is no exception; the Dukes are proof that strong team chemistry pays off.

“From the minute we step on the field, we know we are a family,” senior midfielder Manuel Ferriol said. “Every time we step on the field, we have handshakes we do and huddle, and the captains get us ready to go for the game.”

The Dukes are currently unbeaten in CAA play, as well as being undefeated at Sentara Park (6-0-0). After making the Elite Eight last season, JMU has made a statement this season: It’s determined to make it to the NCAA College Cup. JMU defeated Wake Forest on Sept. 17, and by looking at how the team celebrated, the team’s chemistry is evident. 

“A lot of it is just spending time with each other,” head coach Paul Zazenski said. “On the road trips, we try to design specific pairings for the hotels. We try to have them eat together and not use cell phones.”

The teams at JMU can have a strong connection and passion for the game, and the members of the soccer team are no different. It’s common to see the soccer team messing around and having fun before games by jumping on each other’s backs or dancing to the music playing. With the help of sports psychology departments and planning from the coaching staff, the team creates strong relationships. 

“We have Dr. Bob in the sports psychology department that works with our team on a consistent basis,” Zazenski said. “He tries to formulate those bonds within the team, and he does a great job to help the program with that. I think, overall, our staff just makes a conscious effort to have them become brothers, to understand that there’s a bigger picture other than just playing sports.” 

Something the men’s soccer team values is gameday traditions. The team has a dance party inside the locker room before Zazenski talks to the players prior to games at Sentara Park.

“It helps us all get in the zone and feel ready and all to win and, hopefully, go into the NCAA tournament,” freshman forward Dennis Mensah said.

The Dukes are continuing to improve as they prepare for the rest of their season. They’re currently in the midst of CAA play, with their most recent win against Delaware on Saturday. JMU will take on University of North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Sentara Park.

Contact Madie Hricik at hricikmn@dukes.jmu.edu. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.