JMU sophomore forward Dennis Mensah had an impressive freshman campaign for the men’s soccer team last season. He only played 454 minutes and made two starts, but he scored four goals from eight shots, earning the team’s highest shots-on-goal percentage at .800.
“I scored four goals ... when I self-reflect on how, like, I usually play, I don’t think I played, like, well enough to like my standard,” Mensah said.
Mensah noted that it’s all practice when it comes to him getting the ball to the goal so often. He said after training sessions last season, the team took turns to shoot the ball numerous times.
“I love attacking,” Mensah said. “Like, I want to score every single game. So, like, as soon as I get the ball, I want to go straight into the goal.”
Mensah said that last season, he didn’t have much confidence, but this year he knows the team. Mensah said he wants to improve his record from last season.
“As a striker, your job is to score every single game and try to help [teammates] attack as much as you can,” Mensah said. “What I try to do [is] support my teammates, like hold a play, like make runs through the box, just crosses [and] goals. And I really [want to] improve on what I did last year and probably have the highest scoring by the time I leave JMU.”
JMU redshirt senior forward Carson Jeffris said Mensah is reserved and quiet, but when his teammates get to know him, he opens up and makes witty comments that’ll make the team chuckle, and his true personality will show.
“He’s a very dynamic and athletic player, and he sometimes can bring a little bit of a spark just because he has that quick little burst and that quick little flash of brilliance,” Jeffris said. “When he [gets] on the ball, he just would maybe drop a shoulder, have a quick touch and then have a shot.”
Jeffris said last season, Mensah would take meaningful shots while he was on the field, but he wouldn’t shoot for the sake of it. Jeffris said that if this season is played in the spring, Mensah can add his athleticism to help the team.
“He speaks when he feels necessary, and I think also you can see that with his play,” Jeffris said. “He’ll do things that he thinks [are] necessary. He can stretch the game for us very well. He can go at people 1 v. 1, and that’s something that at JMU we’ve not always had ... a player that can actually drive at people and get defenders on their heels.”
JMU men’s soccer head coach Paul Zazenski said last season, Mensah contributed solid minutes and solid contributions statistically with goals and shots on frame percentages. Zazenski said he’s pleased with Mensah’s progression, especially because he did this as a freshman.
“He contributed to a good team and helped us win, something that not every freshman gets to say in their rookie campaign,” Zazenski said. “He gave us glimpses of who we think he can be moving forward. We’re looking for him to be consistent as we move forward within the four years of him being a part of the program.”
Zazenski said Mensah could improve in reading situations both offensively and defensively and knowing where to be in JMU’s gameplan. Zazenski added he doesn’t think it’s easy for young players to instantly pick up on the technical things he’s looking for, which is why a lot of young players don’t play often.
“For Dennis, he has all of the physical capabilities,” Zazenski said. “He’s just a very natural soccer player. It comes easy to him in certain fashions of the game and certain elements of the game. He’s very, very coachable, and everything that we’ve said to him, he’s listened and applied, and we’re confident that he’ll get better and better each season.”
Mensah may have the opportunity to create an even bigger spark for his team if soccer is played this spring, and it seems like he’ll be up for the challenge.
Contact Andrew Oliveros at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.