Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Men’s soccer wins MIAC, earns automatic bid for nationals

<rleton men’s soccer team has just completed a dream season. Currently the 25th ranked team in the nation, the Knights finished their 2018 season with a 15-1-3 record. Their most recent victory, and most important, was the team’s penalty kick shootout win this past Saturday vs. Augsburg University. Ending in a 1-1 draw after regulation time, the Knights prevailed, defeating Augsburg 4-3 in penalty kicks and becoming MIAC champions. The team has now earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. This is the fourth time in school history that men’s soccer has advanced to this tournament, and it has not done so since 2013. After Saturday’s MIAC victory, the team extended their unbeaten streak to 15 games.

Captain Mark Roth ’19, along with the entire senior class, created a supportive team culture that attributed to the team’s overall success this season. “Beyond just the captains, I think the entire senior class has helped define a positive, reinforcing, and committed team culture that has contributed to most of our success. We have been able to stay positive throughout the entire year, which is a lot easier said than done”, Roth said. Head coach Bob Carlson credited this year’s success to the team’s strong defensive unit and energetic press. “Our team has always been known for their defensive organization and make it difficult for opponents to generate scoring chances. Our back four are exceptional and our midfield three are very tough for opponents to play through. The guys have also become one of the most effective pressing teams in the region and using grit, skill and tactical awareness, have pinned opponents in their own half and created numerous quality scoring chances by quickly transitioning to attack,” Carlson explained.

The MIAC final was undoubtedly one of this season’s most exciting games. After a hard-fought battle from both sides, the game ended in a 1-1 tie after regulation, and Carleton and Augsburg had to fight it out in a penalty kick shootout. At this point in the game, the Knights made a rather surprising decision, and chose to put junior defender Bryan Kim in net for the shootout. Until the MIAC final, Kim had never played a minute in goal in an official collegiate game. However, his debut appearance in goal for the Knights is one he’ll never forget. “About halfway through the season, Coach Carlson walked up to me and asked if I would be willing to train as a goalie for a practice,” Kim explained. “We were pretty shallow at the position and needed some depth and insurance just in case. I was initially a bit hesitant, but I agreed to give it a shot. I must have done alright that day, because from then on, Coach wanted me to continue practicing with the goalies on a permanent basis while spending some time in practice as a field player.”

After stepping up to help the team in his new role, Kim proved to be excellent in goal during penalty shots. Coach Carlson explained, “Bryan works exceptionally hard in practice and he’s unwaveringly willing to do the little things that make our program successful. He’s also an explosive athlete who is quick, strong and agile and saving PKs requires using all of those physical tools to read and react to a shooter.” During the final, the coaches made the collaborative decision, with insightful input from goalkeeper coach Jonathan Elwell, to go with Kim.

“Looking back, I have no idea how I wasn’t extremely nervous,” Kim recounted. “There were a ton of people right next to me on the sideline and it was loud! Despite the people being so close in proximity, I was somehow able to block everything out. Pressure was at an all-time high considering the magnitude of the event, yet in the moment, I didn’t pay attention to anything else other than the shootout and just zeroed in on each shot I faced.” Regardless of his inexperience, Kim made two spectacular diving saves, helping propel the Knights to a shootout victory and a MIAC championship. “I do have to say it’s still pretty surreal to me that it actually happened!” Kim said.

The Knights carried a strong momentum throughout the year, with standout performances coming from some of the team’s newest members. Freshman Marco da Cunha has been an excellent contributor to the Knights this season. Despite being a new member to the team, da Cunha stepped-up and became the MIAC’s leading goal scorer this season. “I’m very grateful to be a part of such an amazing team with so many talented players,” da Cunha said. “I think a lot of my success can be attributed to my teammates putting in the hard work that allows me to get goal scoring opportunities. Whether it’s a perfect longball over the tops of the defenders or a slip pass through the opposition’s back line, my teammates really make my job as a center forward a lot easier.”

The team has reached many of its previously set goals this season. “Reaching the NCAA tournament was my first goal entering collegiate soccer as a first-year and so achieving that with this team and with this class of seniors has been outstanding,” Roth said. Achieving this accomplishment was possible as a result of the strong camaraderie that exists between the players. “I love this team because we have 27 players who are fully committed to the success of the team. We’ve had players step up and prove their dedication to the team all year,” Roth said.

Carlson summarized this year’s best team qualities as “togetherness, competitive fire, grit, willingness to outwork opponents,and ambition to improve and excel in practice that translates to success in matches.”

After completing a successful season, men’s soccer is ready to progress onto the NCAA tournament. The team is hoping to carry over their drive while maintaining the attitudes they’ve held all season. “In a lot of ways, I think the best way to prepare for the NCAA tournament will be to keep up the status quo. There’s definitely going to be a different energy in these games and I doubt anyone is going to need help getting motivated,” Roth said. In expressing the team’s excitement, Carlson said, “The team is thrilled to test themselves in the national tournament and are eager to prove themselves against the top teams in the nation. We are truly grateful for the support of the Carleton community and are honored to represent Carleton! The pure euphoria as the fans stormed the field after the final game winning penalty will be etched in our memories!”

This Friday, the Knights will travel to Chicago, Illinois for the first round of NCAA play. For their first game, Carleton is scheduled to play Transylvania University. If successful, the Knights will advance to play University of Chicago, a top five team in the national rankings. The Knights will have to be at their best for the increased level of competition that lies ahead. However with the team’s current momentum, paired with the unwavering support from the college, the Knights are well prepared for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *