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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Men’s soccer strives for a strong finish to the season and a berth in the MIAC playoffs

<an style="font-weight: 400">A twelfth consecutive trip to the conference playoff tournament was on the line for the Carleton men’s soccer team when they arrived on campus for preseason back in August. In their first game back on Bell Field, a non-conference opponent, UM-Morris, took the Knights to overtime, before a last-second goal by first-year player, Marco da Cunha gave the Knights the 1-0 victory. This 1-0 result proved to be the first of many wins on Bell Field for the squad that is mostly comprised of underclassmen. But for senior captain, Mark Roth ’19, an old-hand at securing victories on Bell Field, the win had special significance.

“My favorite part of the season had to be our first Saturday game back on Bell Field,” said Roth. “The long wait that began at the end of last season was finally over. The summer and preseason is a lot of work and it’s always nice to be given the opportunity to play on one of the nicest grass fields in Minnesota.”

After the 1-0 victory in the home opener, the Knights started their quest for twelve playoff trips in a row. They continued a dominant preseason where they went undefeated with wins over regional opponents from Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

After losing multiple starters in the offseason, the team faced some challenges heading into the 2018 season. Roth credits the team spirit and energy for their ability to overcome this adversity. “I like to think that our success comes from our collective togetherness and our authentic competitive edge,” said Roth. “Coming into the season, we had a couple of really important players from the past few years decide to leave the team. This left a handful of question marks in our starting lineup, but I think it has turned out to be healthy for us in the long run. These openings create space for competition in practice and introduce an opposition to complacency; each practice is an opportunity to earn minutes. Additionally, in the presence of these departures, it gave the team a chance to have conversations `about the community we build and the legacy we are striving to leave.”

Fellow senior captain, Adam Pearson ’19, believes that the team standard set in practice raises the standard of play during games. “We owe our success to the mindset we bring to every practice and game,” said Pearson. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a drill we have done twenty times already this season, every player has the mindset that they need to win it. This makes practices very competitive, challenging each player to improve every day.”

William Lanzillo ’19, another senior on the squad, agrees that the group’s success is in part due to their training sessions. “We have a very cohesive group of guys who are all committed to the team,” said Lanzillo. “I think our success so far has come from how we have approached our practices. Everyone tries to get the most out of each training session and everyone’s effort pushes the team to be better.”

Men’s Soccer currently sit at 10-1-2 overall with a 3-1-2 conference record, their only conference loss coming against Gustavus Adolphus College. The Knights, currently ranked 9th in the North region by the United Soccer Coaches Association, lost to the Gusties 0-2 on the road in their first conference game of the season. Since their shutout loss to GAC, the Knights are undefeated in nine straight contests. Those nine consecutive positive results have included a 1-1 2OT tie to regionally-ranked Macalester College and a dominant 3-0 victory over last year’s elite eight participant and then-nationally ranked, University of St. Thomas.

For Pearson, the victory over the Tommies and the tie with the Scots stand out as highlights in a very successful senior season. “The best part of the season so far was beating St Thomas 3-0,” said Pearson. “The last time we beat them was in the regular season my freshman year, when most of the current seniors weren’t getting any playing time. It was a statement game for the rest of the MIAC that tying Macalester wasn’t a fluke and that we plan to challenge for the MIAC championship.”

With only three games left in the regular season, it looks like the Knights do indeed have a good shot to challenge for a MIAC playoff berth and conference championship. Currently the Knights lead the MIAC with 88 corner kick opportunities, over 22 shots/game and they are second in goals with 34. Their defense has been just as stellar as their offense, with the team allowing a conference-best six goals throughout the whole season and posting another conference-best eight shutouts.

The Knights currently sit in sixth place in the conference, holding onto the last playoff spot. Completely in control of their own destiny,  they are focused on closing out the regular season with three wins in preparation for a deep postseason run.

“I think, as a team, we share ambitious, but realistic goals which continue to be strong motivators throughout the season,” said Roth. “We know that we have the ability to beat anyone in this league and so a challenge has been performing our best every time we step into competition.  Although our tie this past weekend against Augsburg might make winning the regular season more difficult, we are preparing for a long postseason and one that ends with an NCAA tournament bid.”

Their last regular season game of the year, falls on the October 27th, the designated senior game, as Pearson, Lanzillo, Roth and company take on St. Johns with playoff seeding likely on the line. The Knights hope to end the season how they began it, with a victory on Bell Field.

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