Men's Soccer: A sophomore stalwart
“Going to a school in the Ivy League never really crossed my mind,” he said matter-of-factly. “I was initially looking at big schools like UNC and Notre Dame, and Princeton came in only later. But it was a brilliant opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up.”
Indeed, Linnville became enamored with the Tiger program so quickly that he committed to attend during his official visit.
“For me, the stars aligned,” he explained. “You can’t really say no to playing for a school like Princeton.”
Flash forward two years, and it would appear Linnville has made the right decision. The defender immediately slotted into the starting lineup freshman year — starting every game — and he has not left his spot since. And with nearly 30 games of experience in his Princeton career, Linnville has already gained a number of prestigious accolades.
Last season, he was the only freshman to be named first-team All-Ivy League, and he was also named to the national third-team All-Freshman by College Soccer News. This season, he is ranked No. 6 on Top Drawer Soccer’s list of top 20 players to watch in the Ivy League.
Given his calm, unassuming disposition, it is perhaps unsurprising that Linnville doesn’t read his own press clippings.
“I don’t really think about [the awards] at all,” he said. “I’m only as successful as the team is. We could have the conference player of the year, but if we don’t win the league, then it’s not considered a successful year. The awards matter only if the team is winning.”
Linnville, who describes himself as “not a flashy player,” ascribes much of his success to the cerebral side of the game.
“It’s all about reading the game and being smart,” he said. “There are always going to be players who are faster, bigger and stronger. You just have to adjust your game to that and be aware of the different styles of play out there.”
Indeed, Linnville found himself up against many of these faster players when he joined the Carolina Dynamo of the Premier Development League this summer. The PDL, part of the United Soccer Leagues structure, is the fourth tier of American soccer and acts as a feeder system for college players to Major League Soccer and other professional teams in the country.
“It was nice to go back home for the summer and play with guys from UNC, Wake Forest and NC State,” Linnville said. “MLS coaches came to the games and watched, and kept in touch with [our] coaches.”
Linnville had the opportunity to experience the life of a semi-professional soccer player while with the Dynamo, attending three practices a week and matches on the weekend while balancing a job as a waiter at a local restaurant.
“It was a pro-like environment,” he said. “We got the opportunity to travel to a number of places, including Virginia and New York, and the level of play was very high.”
Despite his on-field successes in college and over the summer, Linnville said he can only see himself pursuing soccer so far. In fact, said he found his summer experience eye-opening in that he realized how many players were interested in pursuing professional soccer careers.
“It’s hard for guys from Princeton to play in the PDL,” he said. “Most [Princetonians] are looking for internships and studying abroad in the summer, while a number of these guys [on the Dynamo] are trying to use [the opportunity] as a stepping stone to the MLS. You have to ask yourself how you balance soccer with your future.”
Linnville said he hopes to attend medical school after Princeton. Down the line, he is interested in working abroad for a nongovernmental organization like Doctors Without Borders. “But right now I’m just trying to graduate,” he joked.
In the short run, though, Linnville will continue to play soccer as much as possible. “I’ll probably play for the Dynamo next summer as well, because I only have so long to keep playing,” he said.
Given this mindset, he we likely be sure to take full advantage of his two remaining years as a Tiger. And the team will thank him for it.
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