Macalester Men’s Soccer clinched the regular season MIAC title with a 2-1 win over St. John’s University.
The program has faced its fair share of tough opponents and tense moments this season, and Tuesday night was no exception as the No. 1 ranked Scots played the No. 2 team in the MIAC, with the conference regular season title on the line. In front of a large home crowd, the Scots took on the Johnnies without regulars Dylan Wong ’16 and Austin Burrows ’17, both absent due to injury.
“We have been in a number of big situations this season,” said Head Coach Gregg Olson. “This game certainly surpassed those tense moments, however each week the team has done a good job of staying in the moment.”
Under a steady rain, Danny Baumann ’18 opened the scoring in the fifth minute. Alan Schembri-Wismayer ’17 sent a free kick into the area, where it bounced around, finding Baumann after a deflection who finished from close range. Soon after, St. John’s was awarded a 25 yard free kick after a foul was called on the edge of box. The set piece was taken by Johnnies’ leading scorer Paul Wageman, who levied the score with a well-placed shot to the bottom-right corner of the net.
Coming out of the half, the score remained tied as the slippery conditions made for a physical game. In the 55th minute, a Johnnie Defender mis-hit a clearance and Schembri-Wismayer hit it on the volley from 25 yards out. His shot sailed into the far corner, sending the Scots up for good.
The Johnnies pushed for a goal in the final 20 minutes, and generated a few chances but the Scots defense dealt well with the barrage of long balls they faced and keeper Zeke Vainer ’17 made several strong saves to hold them off. As the clock wound down, fans were on their feet and the team broke into celebration at the final whistle. “The feeling was unbelievable,” said Schembri Wismayer. “Celebrating with the team was obviously something I’ll never forget, it just proved that all our hard work had payed off.”
They will play Bethel on Saturday in final regular season match on Saturday before the playoffs start for next Wednesday, with the Scots set to host all of their matches as the #1 seed. Should they win the MIAC Tournament, they will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. If not, their undefeated performance in the regular season should be enough to earn an at-large bid. “This win and championship is part of our progress,” said Coach Olson “There is so much great history to the soccer program that we feel the responsibility to add to the tradition. In some ways it is validation that hard work and committing to the long term success of the program pays off.”
It’s certainly been a building process over Olson’s four-year tenure. “I still remember my freshman year and how we lost the same number of games that we won,” said Schembri Wismayer. “We have improved a lot since then. However, we still have a lot of work to do so we need to make sure we stay focused and move on to the next game.”
Should they win over Bethel it will be just the third-time in school history the team has gone unbeaten in MIAC regular season play and the first time they claimed the conference crown since 2010.
Happy with the regular season title, yet hungry for more Coach Olson keeps his message steady: “Win your moment and let the rest unfold.”