It's expected that a new college team most likely won't have many, if any, seniors.
Nick Ciraldo is alone in that he is the only senior on the restarted Ashland University men's soccer team.
Ask the Eagles' goalkeeper about that fact, however, and he won't bat an eye.
"It's a great leadership opportunity," Ciraldo said. "Starting a new program, you're going to have a lot of young guys, so it's a great opportunity to just be that leader. We have a lot of great guys on the team, as well.
"I enjoy it. I don't mind being the only one. Where else do you get to be the only 21-year-old senior on the team?"
In the first 10 games of the 2016 season, Ciraldo has played every minute in the nets for the Eagles, and leads the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with 60 saves. His 1.76 goals-against average is eighth in the conference, his .769 save percentage is third and his two shutouts are tied for fifth.
"He's where I thought he'd be, in every sense as a student-athlete," said Ashland head coach Oliver Slawson. "He came in with a high GPA, and he's managed to keep that going here. And on the field, he's been everything I thought he'd be, and a little bit more.
"When you get into these three games in seven days, it's tough on this young group. We've needed a good goalkeeper to preserve a lead for us, and, other times, he's kept us in games, and some of the saves he's pulled off have been unbelievable."
Ciraldo, an Economics major, played his first three collegiate seasons at NCAA Division I Cleveland State, where he posted 12 wins and six shutouts in 34 games (33 starts). In 2015 as a junior, he saw action in just six games before an injury ended his season.
The relationship between Ciraldo and Slawson dates back to the United States Soccer Development Academy, starting when Ciraldo was 10 years old, so the move to Ashland was an easy decision.
"He's a coach that I've always wanted to play for," Ciraldo said. "When I found out he was the head coach here, it was an easy choice for me. The quality here, the whole athletic side of things, is just far superior to where I was at. So, to be fair, it's a step up.
"To come play for him, it's a dream."
"I've known him for a long time," Slawson said. "Off the field, he's a leader. He treats himself professionally. Nick was just ready for a new challenge. He was looking for a fresh challenge, and we were lucky enough to get him."
On the field, as one would expect from a senior goalkeeper, Ciraldo will talk – and, sometimes, yell – at his younger teammates in the back.
"They don't want to hear it, and they won't know it, but when Nick's not here, they'll be playing and they'll hear him shouting," Slawson said. "He's implemented things that they need at this level. In years to come when they're playing as juniors or seniors, they'll find themselves talking to the freshmen and new guys, and passing on the same information that Nick is."
"I'm not used to leading younger guys, so there's always a learning curve," said Ciraldo. "I'm not saying I know everything. I definitely have to work on my communication, as well. It's definitely true, I want these guys to understand what it takes. I want these guys to understand the mentality, the mindset of being a champion, because you have to act like a professional on and off the field.
"The bottom line is, we're building a foundation here. All these guys…they're going to be the building blocks, so I'm just trying to get those values instilled in them now. Anything I can do to help build this program going forward, because Ollie's going to build a dynasty here, he is, and so anything I can do to be a part of that now, happy to do it."
Ciraldo has eight games remaining in his senior season, all against GLIAC teams he and the Eagles already have played – a fact that isn't lost on him.
"Now, we've played every team once. We know what every team's about," Ciraldo said. "We'll be able to manage games differently now. I'm looking to get back at the teams we lost to. That's the best part about this conference. In this conference, you get a second chance against everyone, and I think it's a great opportunity, especially to play some of these big teams at home. It's going to be a great opportunity to showcase how far we've come."