Men's Soccer: Decorated senior Linnville may get shot in the pros
When senior defender Mark Linnville stepped onto the pitch against Towson in Princeton’s first preseason match early in his freshman year, he was nervous. Despite attempts to calm himself, Linnville’s jitters affected his play.
“It was one of the worst performances that I’d ever put in during my soccer career,” said Linnville, now a senior captain. “I began to doubt myself. What am I doing here? Am I made for this? Am I athletic enough? Do I know the game well enough? Do I have enough skill to make it at this level?”
Four years, 67 starts and at least three Ivy League First Team awards later, it is obvious that Linnville was not out of his league in Division I college soccer. In fact, as his college career has come to a close with a 1-0 victory at Yale on Saturday, which brought the Tigers’ final record to 8-6-2 (4-1-2 Ivy League), Linnville hopes for the opportunity to continue to play at a higher level — in Major League Soccer.
“I hope it happens; I hope I get a chance. If it happens, then it happens. If not, then I’ll move on with my life. I’ve done all I can do for four years, so now it’s just waiting to see what happens and when my chance comes, taking advantage of it,” Linnville said.
Head coach Jim Barlow ’91 said he believes Linnville can make the cut in professional soccer.
“I do think he’s good enough to play in the MLS,” Barlow remarked. “He’s one of the best, if not the best, defenders in our league. He’s a smart soccer player, he has good skill and technical ability, he’s athletic, and he’s a competitor. I think these qualities will serve him well at the next level.”
Perhaps more impressive than his on-field accomplishments and accolades, however, is Linnville’s leadership. A two-year captain, Linnville earned the respect of his teammates through his nuanced understanding of the game and care for his teammates.
“He’s not the most in-your-face, vocal leader, but he’s a really attentive leader,” Barlow noted. “He picks up on the pulse of the team; he picks up on who’s having a hard time. He does a good job behind the scenes, talking to guys in a way that makes them comfortable sharing things with him when things aren’t going well. He’s always present, always engaged.”
Throughout his four years at Princeton, Linnville has become as engaged off the field as on. Originally a prospective pre-med, Linnville soon shifted his academic focus to religion, eventually concentrating in the department. This change mirrored his extensive involvement in Princeton Faith and Action on campus. In addition, Linnville works diligently in planning and coordination in his role as vice president of Ivy Club.
“There’s so much more to Linnville than just the soccer player. He’s got so much depth to him and so much more to him than what he’s accomplished on the field, which is a lot,” Barlow said.
In fact, Linnville would like to continue to serve as a spiritual ambassador to Princeton students after graduation, perhaps with a role in on-campus ministry.
“I’d like to give back to the guys on this campus who are going through the stuff that I’ve already been through and just help them out in a spiritual way,” Linnville said.
Linnville has also distinguished himself as a model student. His freshman writing seminar instructor, Patty Kennedy, described Linnville as a thoughtful, hard-working student who constantly strives to serve as a positive example for others.
“He’s the type of student who will engage you in contemplative, philosophical issues,” Kennedy said. “He’s one of the most thoughtful people at Princeton, and he’s a really good example of what Princeton needs.”
As a graduating senior, Linnville has developed an intense sense of gratitude for the opportunity given to him at Princeton and for the people who have supported him during his time here.
“I feel so lucky to be here. The difference between being here and not getting in is so marginal. It’s really a miracle that any of us get in,” Linnville noted. “I just want to thank Coach Barlow, the staff and my teammates. It’s been a great four years here.”
The feeling of gratitude is mutual.
“He’s been a really great player, great person, great teammate, great captain for the last four years,” Barlow said. “He’s a really special person, and our program is going to miss him a lot.”