Mike Naab and the Oswego State men’s soccer team are looking to end a three-year postseason drought this season. A squad with such ambition needs a captain who loves a challenge and won’t quit until the job is done. The Lakers have that in Naab.
Besides being extremely driven, Naab is also Oswego State’s most experienced player. His 44 caps are most on the team and his 28 starts rank second, just behind senior Zach Saccocio.
Other career marks among current players which the Lakers’ captain lays claim to are: leading goal scorer (seven), tied for most assists (four) and tied for the most game-winning goals (two), both coming in his sophomore season.
After missing the SUNY Athletic Conference tournament in his first three collegiate seasons, Naab is keeping his goals simple for his senior campaign. He wants to end his career on a high note, and making the playoffs is an ideal way to do so.
As a high school senior, Naab severely injured his ankle, keeping him from being a part of his team’s run to the sectional semifinals. Those memories still linger in Naab’s mind today.
“It’s always going to stay with me,” Nabb said. “Having those terrible memories is motivation for this final college season.”
Naab, a Wayne Central native, has enjoyed playing with the seniors during his time on the shores of Lake Ontario. He believes he learned something from each senior that he carries with him every time he steps on the field.
As a captain for the 2013 season, Naab hopes to make a similar impact on those he will leave behind. Like any leader, setting a good example is crucial, but more importantly he wants players to feel he’s approachable, someone anyone can talk to, on and off the field.
The desire to be there for his teammates can be traced back to a foundation in communication, which Naab has with his coaches.
“They’re very encouraging,” Naab said. “I know whenever I’m having a problem I can go talk to [head coach Robert Friske] and we can sort it out. If something’s not right with the team we can sit down and sort it out. He’s always there for his players.”
Naab is trying to pass on his knowledge to the freshmen on this year’s squad. The main message he has for them is that mistakes are going to be made. It’s part of the game, one just has to sleep it off and come back the next day ready to move on and make sure such things never happen again.
The senior admits he still makes mistakes on the field, but he is eager to continue to learn and improve.
Naab feels he has grown a lot since his start with Oswego State. He feels he has become a more intelligent player and recognized early in his career that the pace is much quicker than anything he saw when playing high school soccer outside Rochester.
That recognition told Naab talent alone would no longer get him anywhere. He realized that how much work he put in would determine how much he got back. Naab took his offseason training to another level after his freshman season and continues to build on it. He believes the offseason is where most of the hard work is put in.
After a very successful sophomore season in which he set career highs in goals (four) and assists (three), Naab’s numbers dipped last year as a junior. As a captain, Oswego State will look to him for his offensive production to return this season, which has put his fitness and offseason preparation to the test.
Naab tries to fashion his game after Liverpool star and English national team member, Steven Gerrard, who he thinks is the hardest worker in the English Premier League.
Despite his high level of focus, Naab is still, like any amateur athlete, out there to have fun and be a part of the team.
One form of team bonding he’s taken part in this season is sharing the mohawk hairstyle with fellow seniors Eddie Silvestro and Brendan Beisner. Senior year mohawks are a bit of a tradition for Naab. He had one his senior year of high school, so he decided to bring it back for what will be his final collegiate season.
No. 16, Naab wears for the Lakers, could be the biggest symbol of his competitive, yet fun personality. The number he has owned since he was 12. Naab originally picked 16 simply because one of his friends was number 15 and he wanted to one up that friend. The number has stuck with him since.
While Naab is enjoying a strong start to his final season with Oswego State, it seems that he has found the perfect balance between fun and competitiveness.