Despite the return of 21 players from last season, though, the source for much of this newly regained success lies no further than in the forms of two prolific newcomers to the team.
Junior transfer John Krause (Boston College), who has scored or assisted in 10 of the team's 14 matches, already has ten goals and three assists for 23 points. Last year, Vanderbilt totaled 16 goals and 42 points for the entire season.
Krause's offensive counterpart, freshman standout Joe Germanese (right), has also played a large role in the team's newfound offense. Through the first 14 games the forward has recorded four goals and six assists for 14 points.
"It feels awesome to contribute," Krause says of his four game-winning goals. "We are definitely on the right track, but we have only cracked the surface. If the season ended today, I would not be happy with how we did."
Both Krause and Germanese bring elite soccer experience to Vanderbilt, which inevitably produces high expectations for the team. Germanese, the St. Louis High School Player of the Year in 2003, competed with the Scott Gallagher U-19 Soccer Club this summer, which won the Midwest Regional Championship and played at Nationals for the first time ever.
Krause brings even more tournament experience, having gone to the Final Eight in the NCAA Tournament his freshman year at Boston College. As a result, these battle-tested recruits bring challenging goals to the table.
"I think we've had a little bit of success so far, compared to the past few years," Germanese acknowledged. "But we have really high expectations. We're nowhere near where we want to be and no where near the level we know we can be at, so I would say there's tons of room for improvement.
"We have a lot of inconsistency," he continued. "That's one of the main obstacles that our team faces. We need to gain a level of consistency where every time we go out we're playing our best."
Despite what they may see as team-level inconsistency, Krause and Germanese themselves have been nothing of the sort over the first half of the season. They have combined for over half (37) of the team's 84 total points, and in doing so have begun to develop an extremely potent set-up/scorer combination: Germanese has assisted Krause on five of his ten goals.
"Our style of play is perfect for each other," Krause explained. "Joe is the fast kid with a great touch who can get by people and find a way to make things happen around the net. I'm the type of player, the big guy, that if you get the ball in the box, I'll get my foot on it or get my head on it and be able to put it away usually.
"I think the biggest thing is that we have a good relationship," Krause continues. "That's huge for any sport. Joe and I love to have fun together, we goof around together, we have a good relationship; Joe's almost like my little brother. We want be good for each other."
Both players, though, are quick to credit their teammates' roles, both socially and on the soccer field, in their own accomplishments.
"The whole team is really close; we all hang out a lot," Germanese clarifies.
"Scoring goals is a team thing; it's not three guys doing it," he says. "Everybody contributes. It starts with the defenders and the midfielders; everybody has a different role. It's a team effort, and everybody steps up when it's your turn. A lot of people think it's only the forward's job to score goals, and the defender's job to play defense and the midfielders do a little bit of both, but it's not that clearly defined."
"I think you have to give a tremendous amount of credit to our center-midfielders, the whole team," Krause affirmed. "The defense gets the ball to the center-midfielders; they're getting us the ball and allowing us the opportunity to make things happen. Jamie (Gilbert), JP (Justin Moreland), they're all playing really well and getting us the ball and making things happen."
Krause and Germanese readily admit that just as the team (which was ranked #6 in the Midwest Region earlier in the season) continues to grow, they too continue to learn and become accustomed to each other's games.
"We've only been playing for 14 games, and we're both new to Vanderbilt," Germanese pointed out. "We're just starting to get used to each other, out on the field. The first couple of practices, we really had to get used to how we played. He (Krause) came from Boston, and they played a different style, and I came from my club team and we played a different style, and as the season has progressed we started to come together and started to gel a little bit more."
Despite the quick development of their on-field chemistry, both players also acknowledge that the season has not been one smooth ride.
"Joe and I have really high expectations and we know we can do a lot better," Krause maintains. "The last two weekends, for example, were heartbreakers for our whole team. We know that we can actually compete with any team that we play, and it really hurts when we don't go out there and do it."
"If you look at our schedule, we kind of beat up on Drury (a 5-0 victory), then lost to Davidson and Greensboro, and that was kind of a wakeup call," Germanese added. "Then we hadn't lost a game since then until October. So I'm hoping these last two weekends will be another wakeup call and we'll have a few key wins going into the playoffs."
The playoffs are, ultimately, only one aspect of Krause and Germanese's, and the team's, goals this season.
"Obviously we still have a lot of soccer left to be played this year," Germanese said. "We're still getting better every day but I think our goal is first of all, to get to the conference finals in Omaha in November. We have to go through the playoff system for that, and then our next goal is to go to the NCAA Tournament."
"When we play our system of soccer we're one of the best teams in the country," Krause declared. "We're just so new to being good, and to playing big games, that sometimes we just let the other team take the game from us. When we get over that we're going to be one of the best teams in the country, for a long time to come."