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By Corey Pollnow
In the waning seconds of the first half, Jesse Menzies can hear the countdown in the background. 10, 9, 8, 7… Menzies uses finesse to dribble past a Stony Brook player.
Menzies, a senior midfielder from Prospect, Conn. was highly coveted by Siena, Monmouth, Sacred Heart and Manhattan during his senior year at Woodland Regional High School; but he opted to stay in the Nutmeg State.
“[Academically CCSU] offered a Civil Engineering program which many other schools that recruited me didn’t have. Financially CCSU made the most sense [because of] in-state tuition and the proximity of CCSU to my hometown. Also, I wanted my family to be able to watch me play,” says Menzies.
Menzies certainly exudes confidence on the pitch and has gained experience as he’s aged and matured individually. He’s not over ambitious offensively in a manner like Cristiano Ronaldo, but Menzies has certainly become more involved and aggressive offensively since he debuted as a freshman.
As a freshmen Menzies registered three shots. Fast forward to 2012 and he’s attempted 28 shots and currently has five goals with three games remaining on the schedule.
Menzies says he doesn’t have a specific player that he’s tried to mold himself after, but he credits his brothers for inspiring him on the pitch.
“I really don’t have a player to base myself upon. I watch a lot of soccer, but I never found one player that I have the same qualities as. I feel like my game changes depending on what position I play,” says Menzies.
“Growing up though, I used to watch my two older brothers play all the time. My oldest brother John was one of the best sweeper backs I have ever seen. He was tenacious and a great anticipator of play, and probably the most physical player I know,” continues Menzies. “My brother Brian is a smooth and creative player and faster than I will ever be.”
Earlier this season an opposing player from FDU attempted put the ball through Menzies’ feet, otherwise known as a “nutmeg.” Menzies anticipated the nutmeg and quickly regained control of the ball and attempted to duplicate the same move. Although unsuccessful, it showed imagination and wittiness on his part.
“So I guess you could say that my style of play is based off of their strongest attributes,” says Menzies.
Creativity is one of Jesse’s best qualities. Whether surveying the field to find an open teammate or deking his opponent, Menzies has the cerebral skills to accompany his physical gift.
In a game earlier this season Menzies was in a difficult situation; he was pinned near the corner flag with the ball at his feet and his back to a defender. Rather than trying to create a throw in or corner kick by playing the ball off the defender, Menzies flicked the ball with his heel past the defender, quickly turned and sprinted around the surprised defender to maintain possession.
According to Menzies, family plays a vital role in his life. He has his own cheering section and his family is decked out in CCSU gear. Menzies receives the loudest pop of all the players when the starting lineups are announced over the PA system.
“It definitely does give me a boost. It’s almost as if I play to make them proud,” says Menzies. “I guess playing with that little bit of added pressure gives me that adrenaline. But like I said before, I chose to come to CCSU because of my family. So I’m blessed that they are able to make all the games. Not just the home games, but the away games.”
Leadership is one of Jesse’s best qualities and that’s displayed on a game-to-game basis. When the team has needed him to step-up and make a penalty kick or a play, Menzies has delivered with a calm and composed mindset.
“I’m not the loudest on the field, but I do try and pick players up when they are down, you know, positively reinforcing my teammates. I like to think of myself more as a leader by example though,” Menzies says. “Whether it’s making a hard tackle or putting in 100 percent effort, I feel like the team is more influenced by what I do in my play rather than what I say.”
Menzies has shown a lot of character for choosing to finish his career at CCSU after the team discovered the sanctions that forbid CCSU from playing in the NCAA and NEC tournament.
“I know we had a big talk after the season last year and after winning the NEC last year it’s such a good team atmosphere that you don’t want to leave,” says Menzies. “We had that talk and we decided that we wanted to play for one another and have one more good season together.”
“It’s a hard rule, the same thing happened to UConn basketball and it was hard on them. It puts a lot more focus on recruiting better personalities on your team,” Menzies says. “You need rules put somewhere in place because you can’t come in as an athlete and do whatever you want. You have to focus on academics. Fortunately it wasn’t the recent guys who put us in this hole, it was a 4-year thing. It’s hard to put the blame on the current players, but I think it’s a good rule to implement.”
After Menzies completes his senior year, he plans to continue playing soccer in the Premier Develop League with his team, CFC Azul, while pursuing a career as a civil engineer.
“Playing at the college level, you aren’t playing at the highest Division I level conferences so it’s kind of hard to get looked at by recruits,” Menzies says. “I’m going to try and work my way up through the system and play for CFC Azul and see where that takes me.”