VCU men’s soccer senior midfielder Rafael Andrade Santos started the season by being selected to the preseason All-Conference Team. Last season, Santos was named NSCAA Third Team All-Region, Second Team VaSID All-State and earned First Team All-Atlantic 10 Honors.
Starting all but one of his 19 appearances last season, the new campaign brings promise for the senior. Santos is one of the few players remaining who was a part of the last two teams that made it to and lost the A-10 Championship game. After consecutive heartbreaking conclusions to his sophomore and junior years, Santos is particularly driven heading into his final journey in Black and Gold.
Comparison between this year and last
I think for now, we are in a really similar position than the past two, maybe three seasons. We lost some tough games here on our opening night and opening weekend. Were trying to bounce back and I mean this year has been tough because we had a two week break without games. So far we have just played four games and there our teams that have played eight games. Hopefully we are going to bounce back and get some victories, especially in a few weeks going into the conference games.
How to prepare for the next game
I’m always trying to be ready everyday. Everyday after practice I’ll go to the weight room and get stretched and roll outs on my body so I feel good for the next day. For the games, I just try to rest as much as I can and try to stay active a little bit during the day and not sit around and sleep.
On his goal this season
My main goal for this season is to definitely win the A-10 because we’ve been there the past two years and we always have this feeling of disappointment by the end of each tournament. I think my goal, and the rest of the team’s goal, is to win the tournament and then go from there on to the NCAA.
On being a team leader as a senior plus the arrival of new players
It’s hard because I never saw myself as a leader, but with the freshman I just try to encourage them as much as I can, and if they ever need anything, they can always reach out. With the freshmen who are playing right now, I always try to encourage them and give them confidence in their playing because they have the potential. I just try to be a role model for them right now and make them feel comfortable on the team and on the field.
On improvements the team could make
There’s always things that have to be worked on but for now it’s just our mentality because I think our mentality is what is making us not getting those winnings that we are supposed to. That’s the main thing for me, the mentality of the team. Always coming in everyday and be ready to play and be ready to perform and be ready to compete in the fight because that is how we are going to succeed.
On the biggest challenge as a player during VCU career
Knowing how to take care of my body so I am healthy for the whole season. The past years, I can say that I didn’t do that, that I didn’t take care of myself and didn’t do the things I was supposed to in order to get my legs and my body to feel good. I think my biggest challenge this year is just to get this team as far as I can and I feel like I have a good responsibility on that. I am always trying my best in order for the team to go high and reach our goals.
On any records he wants to set
I definitely want a winning season and I want the team to win the A-10 and go as far as we can in the NCAA tournament. I think that is my main goal and main record to beat.
On why he started playing soccer
I’m from Brazil so soccer is our main sport and our only sport that people really care about, I think. Everyone plays even whether your good or your bad, everyone likes soccer and everyone plays it. I guess I grew up with something and that made me want to play it and pursue something.
On why he came to VCU
I came here because I felt a good environment and Coach Gifford always wanted me to come here and trusted my potential and trusted that i would be a good fit and help the school. Also the way we play and the guys here, it was always a good environment and good people around so I think I made the right choice.
Julia Wetzler Contributing Writer