Jannik Loebe leads Fordham with nine goals entering Saturday’s game at North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Fordham University SID)
By Michael Lewis
As we all know, one player certainly doesn’t make a soccer team.
But one player can make a difference in helping forge the identity and personality of a squad.
And that just might go double for the Loebe brothers of Kierspe, Germany.
Jannik and Janos have done their bit and then some in putting the Rams in the right direction. Right now, they are preparing for an Elite Eight confrontation with the University of North Carolina Saturday at 6 p.m. as the only unseeded team remaining in the NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament.
“Their impact has been very vital,” said head coach Jim McElderry.
Jannik Loebe, a senior, decided to play Division I soccer at Fordham University in 2014, helping McElderry turn things around. Since the senior midfielder-forward started playing at the Bronx college, the Rams’ stock has risen, participating in three Division I tournaments. A year later, his younger brother, Janos, noticing the program’s success, decided to follow in his footsteps.
“Besides being very good soccer players and technical players and good athletes, one of the real important aspects that they brought along with a couple of other players is just the high standard that they set for themselves, but also the other players,” McElderry said earlier this week. “They expect to win and expect to do well. And if they don’t, they are not happy about it and they’re going to make changes to make it work.”
After Fordham won its first Atlantic 10 championship in 2014, McElderry remembered when Jannik walked into his office.
“I still was celebrating the win and he was talking about the next year and how we’re winning another one,” he said. “I think their competitiveness and drive and just confidence that we can play with anybody has really filtered through the rest of the team. Younger players are coming in they expect to win as well. Guys like Jannik and Janos coming in have just really pushed our program to another level of confidence and real accountability with the expectation to do well.”
Jannik, an information systems major, made his mark that first season, scoring the game-winning goal in the A-10 semifinals and the lone goal in the final.
When he was looking for a school five years ago, Jannik, who was living in western Germany at the time, admitted he was far from an expert on U.S. colleges known for their soccer.
“To be honest, I didn’t know a lot of schools before or how big D-1 soccer is,” he said. “I just had to go to Division I soccer. I had some really, really good talks with Jim. I thought he would be the right fit, he would be the right coach for me. There were other factors. The scholarship. Fordham is in New York City, which was huge for me as an international. Everything worked out.”
Connecting for the winner in the A-10 championship match helped open the door for Janos, who told his old brother that he would attend Fordham if he scored in the final.
“It was more like a joke because no one expected them to go that far,” he said. “So right after I called the coach. ‘Listen, I have to keep my promise. I’m coming.’ It’s kind of a funny story. I never regretted my decision.”
They have become the keys to the Fordham attack, whether they perform at forward or in the midfield.
Janos — he’s a 5-11, 165-lb. junior — leads the team with 23 points on the strength of seven goals and nine assists.
Jannik — he’s the same height, but is listed as two pounds lighter — is the top scorer with eight goals, with four assists.
“It’s super nice and super good to play with my brother for the past three years,” Janos said. “We’re like huge assets for each other on and off the field. He made a big impact in my decision for sure.”
And, there’s no sibling rivalry.
“We lived together for the past two years,” said Janos, a business administration major. “It’s funny. We basically never fight. We do everything together. We have basically the same friends. A lot of people call us the twins, even though we are not actual twins. We enjoy the time we have together because I know that this may the last season or the last time we play soccer on the same team together. That’s why it’s even more enjoyable.”
The Loebes hope to extend their time together on the soccer field by at least one more game Saturday.