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Men’s soccer celebrates senior night goal fest

By Curtis Zunyu He

Section: Featured, Sports

October 30, 2014

The joy of the senior night electrified Gordon Field as the Judges triumphantly rolled over the Mount Ida Mustangs by the largest score of the regular season—5 to 0. The Judges rose to third place in Division III of the NSCAA with a record of 15-1, tying the teams from 1982 and 1985 with the best start in campaign history for men’s soccer. However, these numbers and records didn’t reflect the significance of this game for both the senior players and fans. To this year’s graduating class, the last regular season home game in their college career served as a precious memory.

The team completely shook off the shadow of losing two games in a row in the UAA Conference last year against the Carnegie Mellon Tartans and Emory Eagles, when they tenaciously out toughed both of them by 1 to 0 in the homecoming weekend and climbed to the number 1 seed in the conference. When being asked about the team’s performance in this season, one of the senior players, Tyler Savonen ’15 was truly satisfied: “I couldn’t be happier with the team up to this point. I knew from the work that we put in as a team this offseason that this year was going to be special … Our aim for this year’s NCAA Division III tournament is simple: a National Championship.”

This confidence in the team completely filled up the 5 to 0 victory on Monday night, along with the best presentation of the team’s high-pressure defense, fast transition in counterattacks and mesmerizing personal performances. It was the extreme focus on defense that brought the Judges the first goal around 18 minutes into the game, when midfielder Andrew Bennie ’15 caught the turnover from the Mustangs’ defense and punished their mistake. The game was his first match as a starter for this season and Bennie perfectly nailed his mission by scoring his first goal of the year. “What’s special about this team this year is that we are 34 guys strong, so even when starting players have picked up injuries, there are 4-5 guys in line, competing just as hard,” said Savonen.

The opportunity to get into the game energized the players coming off the bench. Chris Bradley ’15 notched two unassisted goals by himself ,and Zach Viera ’17 tried his best to pass through four or five defenders deftly to put on a crossover show. Defender Tyler Graham ’17 never halted in the game as he also participated in the offense apart from his defensive job, and several of his passes in the left wing posed a great threat to the opponent. The positive team dynamic of a healthy competition among all the players flowed amazingly through the Judges.

As the last home game of regular season was turned into a memory, nostalgia set in, “… without the memories on and off Gordon Field alongside these guys for the past four years, I would never amount to the person that I am today. I owe everything to this team,” said Savonen. Once again, Savonen used another personal goal on Monday night to rise up as the team’s top scorer this season. After the other forward Michael Soboff ’15 was injured, Savonen stepped up to carry the team forward as he scored the game winner against the Emory Eagles in the second half. “Obviously having Soboff on the field helps the team in every aspect and before his injury he was lethal going forward … gaining Soboff back for the final stretch of the season will definitely bolster our offense, and I have a feeling our front line will find the back of the net a great deal,” said Savonen.

It’s true that Soboff still has plenty of time to come back into action since there are three games left in the regular season for the Judges. However, the upcoming road trip to Washington University, New York University and University of Chicago will not be easy. WUSTL successfully held off the Judges’ offense in a 0-0 tied game last season at Gordon Field, and NYU has a 7-1 record for home games this season. Without the lovely fans and the affirming Jury on home turf, the Judges are now facing another test before the NCAA Division III tournament.

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