Soccer season ends on a jiga-low note

By Daniel Kerwin

When John Leaney announced that this would be his last season coaching the women’s soccer team, the question was exactly how would his coaching career close. He ended it doing the jigalo with his players in front of the fans at Macalester Stadium.Leaney joined his team in their customary post-game call and response cheer following the team’s 3-1 loss to Concordia in the second round of the NCAA playoffs on Sunday night. Leaney brought a lot of energy to the celebration, bouncing back and forth along the line of players, raising their spirits after a tough loss.

“That was probably my favorite memory in four years of playing for Macalester, John doing the jigalo,” Grace Geiger ’10 said. “It just showed that he was happy to be a part of it. It showed that the winning and losing thing is important, but it’s not everything.”

Macalester set up Sunday night’s game against Concordia after a convincing 3-0 win over St. Scholastica in the first round. The 3-1 result against Concordia doesn’t show how close the game actually was. Macalester dominated the majority of the game, outshooting Concordia 9-3 in the game. However, it was Concordia who broke through first with a goal in the 69th minute, adding a second goal 12 minutes later.

“I feel like the middle of that second half they had a little momentum shift where they had a little more control and they got lucky and scored,” Maddy Cochrane ’10 said. “It wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if we hadn’t allowed that second goal ten minutes later.”

Jordan Eckstein ’11 put Macalester back in the game with a goal off of a free kick with three minutes left to play, but less than a minute later Concordia scored their own goal off of a free kick, the ball barely crossing the goal line past Mac goalkeeper Rosie Glenn-Finer ’13.

“It’s a shame for us that we played so well and didn’t win the game because we had the better chances,” Leaney said. “We gave them the toughest game they’ve had all year. When you’re not the best team in the country you need a little bit of luck.”

In the Nov. 15 game, the breaks just didn’t go the way of the Scots. “We were unlucky, but if you play hard enough you don’t have to rely on that luck,” Geiger said. “At the same time if we had a bit of luck I think we would have won. But at the end of the day you don’t want it to be about just a lucky shot.”

The team didn’t even know they’d be playing in the NCAA playoffs as late as last weekend. They lost a chance at an automatic bid after losing to Carleton in the MIAC championship game on Nov. 7, but received an at large bid due to the lack of upsets in other conferences around the country. Macalester received the added bonus of hosting the first two rounds instead of Concordia due to the campus’ more strategic location and better hosting facilities.

“Our expectations realistically were to try to make the conference playoffs, I think they exceeded expectations by quite a bit,” Leaney said. “Three, four weeks ago no-one could have known we’d be playing for the right to go to the final 16 – not just playing for it, but getting so close.”

Qualifying for the NCAAs gave the five seniors on the team a second chance for a sendoff in front of the fans.

“All of us talked about how we really enjoyed the season,” Rose Betzler ’10 said. “We went out on a good note even though we lost.”

Although done coaching, Leaney is still heavily involved in recruiting new talent for next year. The team is well set up for next season, with half of the players on the end of year practice squad being freshmen. However, when Leaney and the current seniors leave it will feel like a different team.

“I don’t think you ever really want it to end when you’re a senior, ever, but I don’t think that was a bad way to end a senior season at all, in fact I was really proud of us at the end,” Geiger said. “But you can’t ever feel like you’re ready to be done though.”

Other players worry there was still time to grow and fulfill their potential. “The saddest part of leaving is that I still think I could be better,” Maddie Mette ’10 said. “I know that every single year I got a little bit better, we all learned and got better as we went on, and I just don’t want to be done. I’m just really sad. I’m gonna miss it a lot.