Steve Shaw took his Christopher Newport men's soccer team to San Antonio earlier this month. The Captains defeated two quality foes and toured sights such as the Alamo and Natural Bridge Caverns.
"We always take trips to see very good teams that are in areas where we can get an education," Shaw said.
That's when San Antonio hosts the Division III Final Four.
CNU came oh-so-close to the Final Four in 2008 and '09, falling in the Elite Eight on penalty kicks last season, in double-overtime the year prior. With six of their top eight scorers back, plus a back line anchored by sweeper David Haas and keeper Justin Wolfe, the 2010 Captains figured to contend again.
They have not disappointed. Entering Wednesday's game at USA South Conference rival North Carolina Wesleyan, CNU is ranked No. 1 in the polls and boasts Division III's only flawless record (12-0).
"Expectations, that's kind of a dangerous word," Shaw said Tuesday morning after teaching his Spanish class. "But I like this team, and I like the way they're built, how they play for each other. And I like how they define themselves, I guess you could say, as warriors. … That's a tough team to beat."
Impossible to date. The Captains have outscored opponents 38-4, pitched eight shutouts and yielded no more than one goal in a game.
CNU is so good that Shaw didn't hesitate to use junior forward Winston Mattheisen as a reserve to start the season. The same Mattheisen who started every game as a freshman and sophomore, led the team in scoring both years and earned All-America honors in 2009.
"I was kind of disappointed at first," Mattheisen said. "I got used to it finally. …We have a lot more depth this year, and that's awesome."
Mattheisen accepted the role when he saw Shaw's tactics work. Shaw liked Mattheisen's chemistry with freshman Alex Makumbi, and used them together off the bench to wear down opponents.
You can't argue with the results. Mattheisen shares the team lead in goals (six) with midfielder Brian Lybert and scored the game-winners in CNU's victories over Southwestern and then-No. 6 Trinity in San Antonio.
Makumbi, meanwhile, a Ugandan by way of Northern Virginia, has four goals. Add Steven Farmer and Andrew Bonorden, and the Captains have four creative forwards.
"If you have players that are creative, then you have more of a chance to do something great, especially in the attacking third (of the field)," Shaw said. "That really separates the men from the boys. …
"Nowadays the No. 1 thing that you look for is athleticism. You have to be able to run. Once you're athletic, you have to be organized, and then you have to be creative. So the creative part really comes into play when you're in the attacking third and you have to break down a team that's also athletic and organized."
The Captains are young — the 30-man roster includes only two seniors — and Peninsula-flavored. Haas hails from Menchville High, Wolfe from Lafayette, Mattheisen from Jamestown, Farmer from Poquoson, Bonorden from Grafton.
"Our goal is to win it all, and our squad is good enough," Mattheisen said. "We talk about it before every game. … If we keep playing hard I don't think there's anyone that can beat us."
That likely means conquering Messiah of Pennsylvania, winner of seven national titles, including the last two and five of the last six. CNU lost to Messiah 2-1 in double-overtime in the 2008 NCAA quarterfinals and 2-1 last year during the regular season.
Messiah, in 2005, is also the last Division III national champion to finish undefeated.
"I'm greedy in that way," Shaw said. "I think we can win every game. … If we lose so be it, but when we get into the playoffs, we'll be ready to make a run. Whether we do or not, who knows? But we'll be good enough because we're used to it."
What: CNU men's soccer at North Carolina Wesleyan.
When: 4 p.m., Wednesday.
Records: CNU 12-0, 2-0 USA South Conference; N.C. Wesleyan 8-3-1, 1-0.
Note: The Captains are 23-1-2 in conference regular-season play the last four-plus seasons, the only loss coming in 2007 to N.C. Wesleyan.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593