Bykowsky defines defense

Bykowsky is a critical part of the men's soccer team. (credit: CMU Athletics) Bykowsky is a critical part of the men's soccer team. (credit: CMU Athletics)

The Carnegie Mellon men’s soccer team has gotten off to an incredible 7–2–1 start. Senior goalkeeper Eric Bykowsky has been a critical part of the effort, having led the defense to five shutouts this season.

The business administration major from Columbia, SC hasn’t always been a goalie. “My parents got me into soccer when I was four, and I kept playing all the way up through high school,” Bykowsky said, recalling the twisting path he took to get to this point. “I started off as an attacker, but they figured out I wasn’t fast enough.”

As the speed of the game got faster, Bykowsky needed to make a switch in position. “When I was midfielder, I had the endurance, but they figured out I didn’t have the foot skills. They moved me to defender, where I didn’t even have enough skills for that.” Despite the constant shifting out of roles, Bykowsky remained optimistic about staying on the team and playing. “Coach put me in goalie for a game, and I ended up starting.”

Though Bykowsky played for the school team during his years in elementary, middle, and high schools, he considered club soccer the true competition where he was forged in fire. “I had a coach who really pushed me, and the hard work I put into it really prepared me for success in college.”

The time he put into soccer helped him utilize his time outside the sport efficiently. Undoubtedly, his investment into the sport would pay off. “We won the regional championship my senior year, and we beat a couple of top teams in nationals before we lost to Michigan.”

Bykowsky believed that coming to Carnegie Mellon would be a great opportunity. “I knew I wanted to go into business, and I wanted to play soccer in college. I figured since Carnegie Mellon was top 10 in business that I’d be a perfect fit here,” said Bykowsky. Though Bykowsky became quickly introduced to the challenge of balancing his course load and his time with the team, he thrived under these constraints.

“The interesting thing about fall sports is that you’re coming in at the most stressful time for you. The time commitment for soccer is like adding three extra classes to your schedule. What it did for me was make me keep a schedule and get work done ahead of time. I actually did better in fall than spring academically. Try to explore as many opportunities as possible, don’t be afraid of a full schedule because it can keep you disciplined.”

Bykowsky has managed to maintain a strong commitment to academics and a strong commitment to the team. Though many aspects of the team have changed over the years, he believes that the team can go far.

“High level stuff changed about the club. We just had a new coach come in last year, and that was by far the biggest change we’ve seen in the program. We’ve got a fresh set of tactics and are playing cleaner soccer. There’s been a lot more discipline in the team, and we’re more accountable on and off the field. This year, we’re right where we need to be in the coaching transition, and our freshman class is the strongest we’ve had in the past four years. I’m very optimistic for this year.”

The Tartans’ great start has certainly seen just how well the changes have resonated with the team. The first game of the season against Muskingum University was the first chance to show their competition what the new team was made of, and the resounding 8-0 victory kicked off the season with a bang.

The Tartans have been able to thrive against strong competition, including a 4-3 victory against the then-number three ranked Messiah College. Though the road ahead will continue to provide challenges for the team, the performances so far given by Bykowsky and the team indicate that they are ready to take on anyone.

The final season for the senior goalkeeper will certainly be one to remember.