The elder freshman: Sosa emerging as leader in first year with Lakeland men's soccer
Athletics - posted on 9/21/2009
Rodolfo Sosa plays like a veteran, acts mature and leads like a senior - all traits not usually associated with a first-year college athlete.
So it might surprising to see "freshman" next to Sosa's name on the official roster of the Lakeland men's soccer team.
Known to his teammates as "Tito," Sosa, a Kimberly native who is a senior academically, has emerged as a leader on a steadily improving Lakeland defense, despite his lack of experience around NCAA soccer.
"It started out when I came here back in 2007," Sosa said.
"I told Coach (David) Madsen I was interested in playing, and he showed me around campus. Back then, I was focused more on my studies, but now that I'm a senior, I said, 'why not make an attempt to play out here?' We've got an awesome group of guys."
Sosa, 23, graduated from Kimberly High School in 2004 after playing three years of high school soccer and several years of club soccer. Sosa stayed with soccer by playing in summer leagues around his home town, and he transferred from UW-Fox Valley with intentions of eventually getting back into soccer.
In three starts for the Muskies, Sosa's numbers don't jump off the page - four shots, three shots on goal - but his impact has been much greater than any statistic could measure, according to Madsen.
"Sosa has a lot of confidence in what he's doing, so I think that kind of shows through with how he's been on the team," Madsen said. "He's stepped in and been a leader, and has been helping the guys do things. I think he just has that natural confidence to him, so he can help those younger guys through some things."
Sophomore Bobby Rublee (Sheboygan), who plays alongside Sosa in the central defense, said it is Sosa's "senior, older aspect" that is helping the Muskies' young back line, which features two sophomores and another freshman.
"I think, communication-wise, we work well together and figure out who's going where," Rublee said. "He's a solid player, he's fast and he knows where he's supposed to be on the field. You don't have to tell him too much."
Communication is one of the biggest points Sosa emphasizes as a player. He pointed to one scenario in Lakeland's 2-1 victory at Ripon on Sept. 15, in which Sosa and defender Joey Salazar decided to switch sides during a match for the best interests of the team.
"The first thing that we try to do is establish a good communication between the four of us on the line back there," Sosa said. "We try and tell our players ahead of us what to do, and keep the (defensive) line going pretty well."
Sosa, who moved to Kimberly from his native Peru when he was eight years old, is described by coaches and teammates as a steady, consistent and reliable player who is technically sound and athletic.
Madsen admitted that Lakeland's coaches didn't expect Sosa to play right away, but he has impressed everyone enough to merit a starting spot.
"On the ball, he's a calm player, and I think the guys know what they're going to get from him," Madsen said. "Also, he can handle the ball pretty well, so when you put those things together, he's a pretty effective player. We didn't expect him to be playing in that spot, but he's been doing a really good job for us there."
Sosa sees himself on the same level as seniors Ted Cormier and Ryan Malo in terms of leadership abilities - something you also don't normally find from a first-year player.
However, Lakeland players and coaches agree it is Sosa's confidence in his abilities that are benefiting the team.
"It's a pretty young group we've got here, and being an older guy along with Malo and Ted, I think the three of us have to lead this team," Sosa said. "We need to tell them to trust each other instead of not having any confidence in what they're doing … that's when teams don't perform to their best.
"As an older guy, I think I have a lot of leadership and a lot to say about what happens out there."
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