In 2015, the Macalester men’s soccer team finished the season with a record of 13-0-5 in the regular season, making both the MIAC and NCAA Division III playoffs. Between then and now, the team lost four consistent starters, two of them quite unexpectedly, and another starter missed games early this season due to injury. Despite this, so far in 2016 the team has a record of 8-2-2, including winning all but one home game to date.
“We pride ourselves on dedication to the game and to the sport, and then just like working our butts off,” said Zeke Vainer ’17, the starting goalkeeper and the only player on the team who has played every minute of every game so far this season. “I can literally trust anyone,” continued Vainer, who stressed that one of the most important aspects of Macalester’s team this year is its depth. When a player gets injured or fails to return for a season, the depth allows the team to recoup and recover without missing a beat. When starting forward Austin Burrows ’17 was forced to miss the first few games of the season with an injury, Danny Baumann ’18 was thrust into the starting lineup, and has scored three goals this season, tied for most on the team, and enough to keep a spot in the lineup after Burrows returned.
Perhaps the hardest-hit area in the offseason was the defense, where the team lost two starters who played nearly every minute last year. Despite this, the Scots have only conceded five goals so far this season, two coming on penalty kicks, while scoring 19 goals themselves. The two new starters, Max Kent ’20 and Jackson White ’20, both first-years, have been solid, with Kent playing all but two minutes so far this season. Several other first-years or players who did not receive substantial playing time last year have stepped up as well to fill important holes in the rotation.
“When we played at Whitewater…they were ranked high in the national rankings the year before…we were actually outplaying the other team, and I felt that set in motion a lot of success,” Vainer said when asked what the highlight of the season had been so far. The Scots played to a 1-1 draw against Whitewater, ranked #19 in the nation at the time.
On Saturday, October 1, the team faced St. Olaf, who knocked Macalester out of the NCAA playoffs last year with a loss at home. After an early goal by Clayton Smith ’19, the score was evened on a penalty kick goal for a 1-1 draw. Although this is perhaps not what was wanted, it was still an improvement over last year’s season-ending loss. This followed a streak of seven straight wins, three against MIAC teams.
“Every day it’s like ‘how can I improve a little bit as a player, as an individual and as a teammate,’” Vainer said. Although the team is currently firmly in the playoffs and nationally ranked, they recognize that the work is never done. After an extremely tough schedule in the last few games against several nationally-ranked teams, the team hopes to rebound in the next few weeks, with games against the MIAC rivals Carleton and Augsburg next on the schedule.