Men's soccer finishes one point shy of MIAC playoffs

By Daniel Kerwin

The men’s soccer team finished out the season in thrilling fashion last Saturday with a come-from-behind 2-1 overtime victory over Augsburg. It was a bittersweet victory, however, since the team ended up missing the playoffs by one point in the standings.Macalester was still in the playoff hunt entering its final three games, but after a 1-1 tie with St. Thomas and a 0-1 loss to Gustavus the team’s playoff hopes were dashed.

“We rode some really high highs, and sunk to some low lows this year and to miss out by one point really makes you think about all the ‘what ifs,'” goalie Ryan Palmer ’08 said.

“What really hurt were our losses to Hamline and Carleton, two teams that hadn’t been able to beat us for years,” Brandon Arents ’10 said. “If we could have won one of those games we would have went on [to the playoffs].”

Macalester ended its campaign in the MIAC with a 5-4-1 record and 11 points, just shy of St. Olaf’s 12 points. St. Olaf beat top- seeded Carleton in the playoff semi-finals on Wednesday and will play Gustavus in the MIAC Playoffs Championship match tomorrow.

When Macalester faced St. Olaf during the regular season on Sept. 21, however, the Scots put together a convincing 2-0 home win in front of the Mac faithful.

“For the team I would have to say that the win against St. Olaf was our highpoint,” Carson Gorecki ’09 said. “We really clicked and it was a lot of fun. It is too bad that we couldn’t capture that momentum for the remainder of the season.”

After the strong performance against St. Olaf, the team wasn’t able to realize its full potential. A lack of assertive play early in games ultimately proved costly. In each of their three losses after the St. Olaf game they fell behind early and were not able to respond with an equalizer.

Macalester has now missed the playoffs for two straight years after claiming the league title seven times from 1997-2005. During his nine years of coaching in the MIAC, Head Coach Ian Barker has seen other MIAC schools develop a greater commitment to their soccer programs, obtaining local players that previously might have gone on to play at bigger schools. As a result, Barker says that of the 11 teams in the conference, there are eight teams currently in position to make the playoffs next year. Still, he believes that winning the league outright is not a completely unreasonable goal.

This season the team showed flashes of the kind of play it would take to pull off a playoff berth next year. One of the bright spots was Eric Tettegah ’11, who was named MIAC player of the week during the season after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win against Concordia and the insurance goal in a 2-0 win over St. Mary’s. That so many first years such as Tettegah were able to contribute in their first season bodes well for next year.

“I think we have learned a valuable lesson as of what we need to do to assure ourselves a playoff berth next year,” Tettegah said.

“Next year I think there’s going to be a lot more freshmen [class of 2011] on varsity,” Nate Juergens ’11 said, who was voted best freshman by his teammates in the end of season awards.

The other postseason awards went to Palmer, who was voted MVP, Daniel Balogh ’10, MVP of the second team, and Jeff Swick ’09, the recipient of the spirit award.

Gorecki led the team with 9 goals for the second straight year, including the overtime winner against Augsburg, his third such goal over the past two years. He, along with other players such as Swick, will form next year’s core of seniors on a predominantly young team. They will try to make sure they finish their Mac careers without the regrets and unfinished business that plagued this year’s seniors.

“Ideally we would have made it to Nationals, but beating Augsburg in that last game felt like the next best thing,” goalie Evan Mitchell ’08 said. “To battle it out for an overtime win at home for all our fans was a great way to end the season, and we the seniors got to go out with a bang.”

If everything works out, next year won’t only mark Macalester’s return to the playoffs, but the start of another impressive stretch of titles such as the men’s soccer team has had in the past. The competition will be tough, but that would make success all the sweeter for the Scots.