BURNABY — The air got a little more rarified Tuesday morning in and around the offices and training centre of Simon Fraser men’s soccer.

That’s because head coach Clint Schneider and the Clan got the news that its SFU program had ascended to No. 1 this week in the United Soccer Coaches NCAA Div. 2 national poll.

In 2018, a total of 212 schools field NCAA Div. 2 men’s soccer teams.

Simon Fraser had started the season at No. 20, moved to No. 4 and last week to No. 3 as it went about compiling a perfect 8-0-0 record to start the current season. As well, a 2-0 start to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference season which has seen the Clan outscore Montana State Billings and St. Martin’s by a 10-1 goals for-and-against margin,  gives the team an 11-0 conference win streak dating back to last season.

The graphic tweeted Tuesday morning by Simon Fraser athletics says it all. (Graphic property of Simon Fraser Clan athletics)

Yet from Schneider’s standpoint, the biggest message is that everything that has gone into making this season’s start so resounding is exactly what must continue, and for the stretch of a long GNAC season just beginning, if the true meaning of their struggle is to realized with a national title.

“I don’t want to downplay anything but there is a reason why after eight games we are getting the attention that we are getting,” Schneider told VarsityLetters.ca upon release of the poll. “It’s all very nice. But it’s also very important as a coach and for the players’ mentality, that it doesn’t change our approach and how we go about things. We want to be No. 1 at the end of the season, and I know that’s coachspeak, but that has to be the mentality because you can’t ever settle for anything after just eight games.”

If anything, Tuesday’s news is further evidence of the talent contained within the Clan’s ranks.

As it prepares to face Portland’s Concordia Cavaliers (1-0-0)  on Thursday (7 p.m.) at its own Terry Fox Field fortress atop Burnaby Mountain, the Clan comes into play with three players — Matteo Polisi, Mamadi Camara, Connor Glennon — all sporting resumes of 20-plus points.

And the challenge for Schneider and staff is to keep the team pointed in a direction where its focus is constantly being sharpened.

If there is pressure, Schneider says, it’s not going to come from a ranking, but rather from a requirement that comes with pulling on the team’s practice or game jersey each day during the season.

“The pressure is constant and it’s from me as coach, for them to play well in every game,” says Schneider. “It’s like I’ve said about us wanting to control the controllables. (Click here for a story on the Clan’s 2018 team motto)

“The ranking, that’s someone else’s point of view,” the head coach continued. “But what’s important, what we can control, is our approach and that is no different (with the No. 1 ranking). We want to keep it nice and light, have loads of fun and make it enjoyable to put our best foot forward.”

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