Brandeis men’s soccer had a historic season in 2016. Though their record was just 13-6-4, a Cinderella-like string of games led Brandeis into the NCAA Division III Final Four. However, immediately following the season, head coach Mike Coven retired, leaving a team ready to prove that they can win without him.
The Judges had a rough start last season. By the middle of October, the team was just 5-4-3, and even making the NCAA tournament seemed unattainable. But a five-game winning streak to finish out October, which included wins against UAA opponents Washington University in St. Louis, Emory and Rochester was just enough to give the team an NCAA berth.
This is where the team excelled.
In the first weekend, they beat Western New England and St. Joseph’s College of Maine to advance to the Sweet 16. Then, they beat 2015 NCAA national champion (and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs) Amherst followed by a dominating performance against Rutgers-Newark to reach the Final Four. Unfortunately, the game against Calvin in the Final Four did not go as hoped, but the Judges still managed to make an incredible season out of one that started off bleak.
It seemed fitting that Coven retired after last season. After 44 years of coaching, one last incredible season was enough for the head coach to call it quits. He has been replaced by Gabe Margolis, who was Coven’s assistant coach for the past 11 years. On his time with Coven, Margolis explained, “He was a great mentor to me and I really think he prepared me to become a head coach.”
Beginning in March, the team began to work with coaches again. The team named three rising seniors as captains for next season and began work immediately without their graduating senior class.
Captain Ben Woodhouse ’18 says that practices have not been very different with Margolis at the helm. “Gabe has always had significant influence on our team culture before he became our head coach,” Woodhouse said. As for the team’s practice schedule, they practice three times a week with coaches and work an additional three times a week with strength and conditioning coach Jason Byrne.
Though the graduating seniors have not been at practices (although they do occasionally show up), their impact on the team is still immense. Four of the graduating seniors were starters, including Josh Ocel ’17, who received All-American honors.
Each year, though, the program grows from the legacy graduating seniors leave behind. These marks leave the remaining team with lessons they learned from those who led before. “What I think they have left behind is a legacy that the younger guys are ready to continue to build on,” Margolis said.
Off-season is a key time for growth. “First of all, it is a time for the 2017 team to begin to emerge and come together as a group, and secondly, it is a time for everyone to individually, coaches included, to get better,” Margolis said.
Margolis and Woodhouse alike look forward to competing again after a long summer apart. Woodhouse faces his final year as a student-athlete with optimism. “I am most looking forward to just getting out on the field and playing,” the senior said.
On the team’s goals for next year, Woodhouse said, “Win UAAs and win the national championship.” As simple as that.