Scots looking for a breakthrough at midpoint in season

By Jack Wickham

Unlike most colleges in the United States, when a Macalester student is asked which sport will draw the most crowds, the answer probably won’t be football or basketball. The student will most likely respond “soccer”. Macalester has proudly boasted a strong soccer program for quite a while. Since 1988, the team has clenched nine MIAC championships and has had nine NCAA playoff appearances. The program has also produced many strong players, including Nathan Knox ’04, now playing professionally for the Minnesota Thunder.

This year is also turning out to be a good year for the Scots. Having won six games so far in the season, including four shutouts, the Scots are, according to Coach Ian Barker, improving each game.

“I would give this year’s team a letter grade of a B. We’re 6-3-1. We’ve been competitive, but we need breakthrough results to determine how good we are,” Barker said. “This team is progressing better than the 2006 and 2007 models. Our commitment to keep the ball on the ground and move it around remains high, and our group is very able. Defensively, we’re well above average concerning organization.”

While this is Barker’s first year as full-time head coach, he has been working at Macalester alongside John Leaney (a man whom Barker credits with having vastly strengthened Macalester’s soccer program) since 1999. Before then, he served as top assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin in Madison for eight years. During his time there, the Badgers went on to make four NCAA appearances, win a Big Ten Conference title, and in 1995 win a national title. He maintains that the team is currently on an upswing.

Though it is true that the 6-3-1 record is, while good, not outstanding, the team has only encountered one MIAC loss (at an away game to St. Olaf, 2-1), and only had two games where they did not score at all (against Oberlin and Wartburg, losing 3-0 and 2-0 respectively). It is also important to note that the Scots are playing without one of their key players. Carson Gorecki ’09 has been injured this season with a broken foot.

Gorecki, a forward who hails from Mahtomedi, Minn., was the co-MVP (along with Jeff Rogers ’07) for the 2006 season, and started all games last year. Garnering 9 goals and 3 assists his junior season, he led the team in points (twice the number of goals added with number of assists), goals, game-winning goals, shot attempts, and shot percentage. He also was second behind Adric Mueller ’08 in assists.

“Carson had such an impactful play that losing him anytime would be a challenge,” Barker said. “However, we lost him in the preseason, and we’re making an effort not to dwell on it. Everyone is aware of the loss, and no one is moping around or using it as an excuse on a bad day. Clearly I can’t mend a broken foot, but we are all handling the situation as best we can.”

Still, the team is playing strong, and is looking to make the MIAC playoffs, which Barker says is one of his biggest goals for the team. He says that his other hopes for the team are that the freshman class will continue growing in its talent and effort as it has been so far, and that the sophomore class will appreciate the latter’s skill and respond.

The team’s practices are rigorous, and the work ethic seems high. Since the beginning of September, the team has had a total of five days off. Every day other than those has either had practice or a game, and often both.

“I knew it was going to be competitive here, and that Macalester soccer had a good history, with a lot of NCAA appearances and MIAC championships,” says forward Jeremy Carp ’12 in reference to what he knew about Macalester soccer before coming here. “[However] it was even more rigorous than I had expected. It took a little while to adjust. The competition is also pretty good. Even the bad teams are okay. We haven’t gotten to the toughest teams yet. I don’t think we’ve played a game where it’s just been, you know, a joke.”

The rest of the season will remain a challenge for the Scots. Facing strong teams like St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus (second and third in the conference respectively, after an undefeated Carleton), the team will, according to Barker, have to keep working hard on its offensive creativity if it wants to pose a real threat.