First-year heavy men's soccer looks for footing in MIAC

By Jamie Macpherson

I said yo baby, yo baby, yo baby yo! If you’re not a Scot, then you’ve gots to go! Mac fans are heard loud and clear most Tuesday and Friday nights when the Macalester men’s soccer team takes the field. What is it that draws people to the games? Head Coach Ian Barker explains:”The team has good talent for the MIAC, arguably more talent than some of our last teams.”

In other words, this year’s squad has the potential to be something special. Mac has traditionally been a top team in the highly competitive Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference qualifying for the league playoffs three of the last five years and the Division III national tournament twice in that time period. The Scots, however, will have to regroup after a slow 1-2 start in the conference; a real test for a young team with 14 first-years on the roster, several of whom have seen significant playing time.

“We’re younger this year,” Midfielder Jake Rocke ’09 said. “The big thing [with the first-years] is I haven’t noticed any hesitation or fear. You can’t play scared or hesitate.”

On and off the field, many first-year students say soccer makes dealing with the stress of homework and classes easier. Being on the team allows them to form a base of friends, and provides a mental break from Mac’s heavy workload.

“It was helpful to be here during pre-season,” Mark Mullaney ’11 said. “Eating, sleeping, and playing soccer with the guys-it’s the ideal life.”

Out of the fourteen first-years that came out, half of them are from Minnesota, the rest come from all over, everywhere from Maryland to Alaska.

“This group is the deepest new class we’ve had in a long time, “Barker said. “It was a good recruiting year.”

The first-years are a versatile group; with a player for each position, they have the makings of a solid base for years to come. During pre-season, the team of first-years scrimmaged against the upperclassmen, and was able to hold their own.

Why are so many good soccer players choosing to go to Macalester? Many of the players cite Mac’s reputation for academic excellence and internationalism, but the majority of the first-years claim they chose Mac at least in part because of the soccer fans.

“Fans give me the extra burst,” Rocke said. “It’s like playing with a twelfth man on the field.” First-year Spencer Celements-Green agrees, saying the fans make him play better.

“[The fans] don’t make or break a game,” Nate Juergens ’11 said. “But they help out a lot.” Juergens also hinted he wouldn’t mind if the fans continued to be even more enthusiastic and vocal.

Most schools only support their football teams, explained Jake Duscha ’11. “This is a pro-soccer school. Instead of football, it’s real football.”

So far the fans enthusiasm has not perfectly reflected the Scot’s record. Last year the men finished 8-8-1, (win, loss, tie, respectively), sub-par by Macalester standards. Currently their record is 4-3-3. The majority of those games have been non-conference, however, Mac did suffer early setbacks losing to Carleton 3-1 and most recently a sobering 2-0 loss to Hamline, both MIAC teams.

Speaking about the first loss, Rocke explained, “We came out flat…we didn’t have any energy, and Carleton took advantage of that.”

Slow starts have plagued the Scots in years past, but Mac appeared to set things right at home under the lights, with a friendly crowd behind them, defeating St. Olaf 2-0.

Despite the lack of success early in the season, the team seems confident of further successes. Leading scorer Carson Gorecki ’09 expressed his desire to finish the season without another loss and he and his teammates speak positively of winning the MIAC this year.

The 2-0 upset at the hands of Hamline spoiled that dream, but Rocke says that the playoffs will still be a goal for the Scots.

“As a player,” he said, “you can’t not believe it’s within reach.” He believes that as long as the team can remain focused, and score early in the games, the Scots will be successful.

“This group has enough talent to win the MIAC and go to the NCAA’s,” Barker said. “[Losing to] Carleton doesn’t help, but if the group performs at its best, they can achieve a lot more than perhaps even they believe.