By Maddie Mulkigian, Asst. Sports Editor
With its challenging non-conference schedule out of the way, the Manhattan Men’s Soccer team is ready to face its toughest opponents in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). At the front of their starting line and ahead on the scoring leaderboard, Gunnar Studenhofft is about to face his toughest challenge yet: ten games in a row in a grueling MAAC schedule.
“Simply, I want to bring the MAAC Championship back to this school,” Studenhofft said. “We’ve all been working hard and I just want to score as many goals as I can for this team and be the best teammate I can be for my teammates on the field as well as a good teammate off the field.”
With his indescribable pace and finishing ability, Studenhofft is the player that all MAAC teams will have at the top of their scouting reports. He might only be a sophomore competing in his first season with the Jaspers, but his impact on the team is undeniable with him as the leading goal scorer going into MAAC play.
“He’s always willing to do work,” senior forward Johan Valez said. “He’s brought a lot of pace to the team, so it opens up a lot of space for the more creative players to get on the ball, create, and find him in behind. He’s obviously a really big help.”
Studenhofft’s most obvious asset is his ability to put the ball in the back of the net, but his athletic ability allows other players to step up their own offensive skills. His inspirational journey of leaving home at an early age to pursue his soccer career proves that he is going to take every opportunity to be the best player for his coaches and teammates. However, it is important to remind all Jasper fans that he is only a sophomore on this team.
“I think that trying to balance speed and technical execution,” head coach Jorden Scott said. “How do you control a car that’s driving 100 miles an hour? You gotta find a balance. He’s worked on it and he’s getting better, but he’s so young. I think people forget that he’s still really young and he’s got a lot of personality growth as well to do, but he’s getting there.”
Studenhofft’s young age provides him with the time to continue to develop and balance his athletic and soccer abilities. This is something that the team’s coaches and players believe he will eventually achieve, but his current athleticism will be foundational for the team as they enter their conference schedule and post-season.
“I think he’s obviously an attraction because of his athleticism, but I think that he’d be the first to admit that he has a lot of growth in him too,” Scott said. “You can’t just expect him to walk on the field and be the next MLS prospect overnight. It takes time. And if he was able to be that perfect, he wouldn’t be here right now. He would be playing in the pros. And that’s what he’s built for.”
Scott’s image of Studenhofft being ready to play professionally by the end of his career as a Jasper is a testament to the skills he already possesses. However, both he and Studenhofft are aware of the role he needs to achieve in order to get to this desired level of play.
“I feel like I have a big responsibility to score goals,” Studenhofft said. “Going into the MAAC, I at least want to be at the top of my game. I think my coaches trust me and believe in me to do that. From there, we want to move forward. If we make mistakes, we have to keep moving forward. That’s the Jasper way.”
No matter what stat category or record he holds, Studenhofft’s mindset is to put the team first. He is proud to represent Manhattan College every time that he enters a game and is tirelessly preparing to leave everything on the field in MAAC play.
“He’s going to be a tough deal for some people. He’s a nightmare to play against,” Scott said. “It’s taking the team a while to learn how to adjust to him. It’s not easy when a guy is running that fast. It’s a team growth moment and he has to fit into that a little bit, but we don’t want to take away some of the things he brings.”
This offensive nightmare in the form of Gunnar Studenhofft will make his MAAC debut next Wednesday, Sept. 28, as the Jaspers face off against the Rider Broncs.