Potter returns to Men’s Soccer for fifth year

The extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19 has allowed many college athletes to have one more chance to play their favorite sport at the collegiate level. Many senior athletes have taken advantage of the extra eligibility at various schools, using their fifth year as the last dance. This is the case for the Men’s Soccer team as their 2022 roster will feature All-American and goalkeeper, Griffin Potter, who has decided to use his fifth year at VWU.

Having the chance to compete again, most athletes would enter the transfer portal and find a different school to go to, but Potter couldn’t leave Wesleyan just yet. Potter expressed that he liked it here very much and the familiar surroundings made his decision easier. “Coach still had faith in me and wanted me to stay and everything that I learned at Wesleyan in the past four years is what kept me here,” Potter said.

Potter came to VWU in 2018 from Manchester, Maryland. When he got to VWU, Potter showed up and showed out. He appeared in all 13 games of the 2018 season for the Marlins as the goalkeeper where he had 63 saves and one shutout against Hampden-Sydney College as a freshman. He continued this success after freshman year, by remaining as the starting keeper for the Marlins and by becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). 

“As far back as I can remember I feel like I was born with the ball at my feet. I’ve played with youth programs and kept progressing, you know, travel [team] and to club [team] and now I’m here,” Potter said. “I had a little bit of knowledge about [VWU] already since my brother played lacrosse and graduated from here, but for me, it was kind of just getting out of the state, because I’m originally from Maryland, and the beach was definitely a big thing because for me I loved going to the beach growing up.” Potter also mentioned that he had been to Wesleyan many times before deciding to come here.

Over the past four years, plus the two recent games that were played this 2022 season, Potter has had an incredible soccer career as the commander of the cage. He has played in a total of 59 games, started in all but one, and played a total of 5,331:32 minutes for the Marlins. He has only allowed 88 goals, with 325 saves, 13 total shutouts and has a 22-26-6 for his record of wins, losses, and ties.

Men’s Soccer Head Coach Chris Mills will be starting his 10th season with the Marlins, and Potter has been there for half of it. “Griffin showed up to one of our ID camps and we hadn’t seen him play and I saw him on the other end making a couple of saves and started to watch more closely, then that’s kind of how we found him,” Mills said. He also mentioned that Potter had committed then decommitted, then called back in the summer to see if room was still available on the team. 

Potter was the top recruit again this year in some way for goalkeepers and Mills explained that having the ability to get a 5th year All-American for one more season “kind of trumps going after an incoming guy.” However, Mills is fortunate to have him one last time and expressed that the energy and leadership Potter brings helps out the entire team. “I think he’s come a long way and in the five years he continued to get better every year and a lot of that success I give to Coach Wheaton, he’s our goalie coach, I can’t take too much credit for that,” Mills said.

Being a goalkeeper is no easy feat and is the hardest position to play in soccer. There are a lot of mental and physical abilities that only goalkeepers usually possess. Physically, many have great coordination, solid catching skills, wonderful agility and fast reflexes, and it does help to be tall to be able to jump up high enough to catch the ball. Potter is 6’5’’, so he is pretty much up there. However, it does take being mentally tough to be a goalkeeper.  

“Being a goalkeeper, mentality-wise, a lot falls on your shoulders and being able to stay calm and trust situations play a big part,” Potter said. “It is a whole different perspective of the field and the combination of both physical and mental things that help me succeed.” 

Junior midfielder, Alex Moody, had met Potter during the COVID-19 school year, so he did not get to interact with and get to know Potter. However, during Moody’s sophomore year, Potter and Moody got closer. 

“He’s a good guy and he’s become one of my good friends here, hung out with him a lot over the summer at the beach and trained with him,” Moody said. In terms of team culture, Moody expressed that the team loves him and that Potter is like a rock back in goal and that the team knows when the ball is headed back to Potter that he has got it handled. 

Mills described Potter as passionate, as a leader and competitive. “I would say those three things, anytime you watch him play you can just tell the competitiveness he has, the passion he has in the game, and obviously he has grown into that leadership role within our group,” Mills said. 

Moody echoed some of the same sentiments, as he described Potter as very knowledgeable, caring and “a good person off the field, like if you need something, text him, he’ll respond within like 10 minutes,” Moody said. Moody also mentioned that Potter is kind of like the dad of the group because he’s the oldest player.

Obviously, Potter will be leaving and a new goalkeeper will take his spot. Currently, on the roster, there is one other goalkeeper, junior Jordan Smith, but Mills and his coaching staff will be on the lookout for goalkeepers to add to the roster. 

Potter shared his advice to goalkeepers that will come after him. “Don’t be scared and don’t be shy of your abilities because being a goalkeeper is hard, and being confident in your abilities and being confident in your team and being prepared for whatever challenges are thrown at you,” Potter said.

After VWU, Potter would love to keep playing soccer at a higher level, possibly professionally, but also wants to be an advocate for mental health in student-athletes. Potter is a Psychology major here, and ideally, he wants to start in a coaching position, and with his degree in Psychology, he potentially wants to be a mental health specialist. “I want to be that avenue for student-athletes to come and talk to like whether they’re struggling with something on or off the field,” Potter said.

Potter and the Men’s Soccer team will return to Foster Field at the Tassos Paphites Soccer Complex in Virginia Beach, Va, on Sept. 17 at 6:00 p.m. against the Covenant College Scots.

Shirell Washington