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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Seniors say so-long, men's soccer beaten in tourney

By William Kennedy

Men’s soccer was eliminated from NCAA competition Sunday, following a 2-0 loss to Loras College on a windy day in suburban Chicago. After a long year, which included some late deflating losses, the Scots season ended too abruptly for many players. However, despite an imperfect ending, Mac’s squad won enough big games to maintain their repuation as a top MIAC and national team. On paper, the berth to the NCAA playoffs alone was enough to make the season a successful one. Expectations from outside the team were not extraordinarily high for the Scots entering the year–Mac had been shut out of the tournament since 2002, finishing runner up for three consecutive years in the MIAC playoffs.

Despite the pre-season outlook, Men’s soccer came out of the box strong in 2005, beating two nationally ranked opponents and moving in and out of the national ranking themselves on several occasions. The Scots also fared well in the MIAC and earned a chance to secure the regular season title in their final game. The Scots’ early success tapered, however, as a disappointing draw with Carleton College meant a shared title with Gustavus Adolphus College.

Worse still, Mac faced an even more disappointing MIAC postseason as they again finished runner up in the championship game, losing in overtime to St. John University 1-0 in front of the home crowd.

Fortunately for the Scots, coming up short in the MIAC playoffs did not cost them a tournament berth in 2005 as a new selection process admitted a greater number of teams who had not won playoff championships. Entering the tournament for the first time in three years men’s co-head coach Ian Barker was not sure what to expect from his team. “I didn’t know if we we’re going to be satisfied just being there,” he said.

Against first round opponent North Park, the Scots did not settle for an early exit as midfielder Alex Whitworth ’08 followed up on a blocked shot with a one-timer into the back of the net and Mac’s defense shut down the opposition.

Placed in one of the tournament’s less competitive sections, the Scots were poised to make a run deep into the tournament. Loras, however, put an end to those hopes. Mac fell behind midway through the first half when a pair of long Loras throw-ins led to two goals within five minutes.

After their flat start, the Scots went on the attack, moving up an extra forward and dominating ball control. However, Loras packed the box and Mac was only able to rack up a statistical advantage on shots and corner kicks, never managing a goal.

Without a Hollywood ending for the Scots, the year still looked successful from the outside, but men’s soccer has a tradition of high standards and the team had mixed reactions when looking back on the season.

“It was a good season, but not more than that,” mid-fielder Magnus Oppenheimer ’07 said. For some seniors especially, a second round exit didn’t meet with much enthusiasm. “In the end,” striker Joe Wertz ’06 said, “we had very high expectations and we didn’t quite live up to what we wanted to do.”

Even so, Mac, and especially the senior class, had plenty to be proud of this year. “Over the last four years,” Barker said, “this is the biggest win total the seniors have had.”

Mac started six players from its graduating class including four of its five All-MIAC award recipients: Ian Ritz ’06, Andrew Wissler ’06, Michael Melamed ’06, and honorable mention recipient Wertz. Oppenheimer also received all-conference recognition.

Replacing the seniors for the following year always represents a challenge, but Barker thinks Mac still has plenty of talent left. “We could put out a team right now that would finish in the top four in the conference.”

Recruiting will have to factor in as well if Mac hopes to rise to the top of the MIAC again, but Barker and co-head coach John Leaney have a solid reputation for bringing in young talent. Mac’s JV team this year, for example, finished a solid 9-1-1.

As for the players, they recognize that next year will present challenges, but don’t appear to be lessening their expectations for 2006. “We’re losing a great class,” Oppenheimer said, “but we’ll still be competing next year and fighting to get into the tournament.

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