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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

Men’s soccer ends season in MIAC semifinal thriller

Sam Price ’25 collects a ball. Photo courtesy of Macalester Athletics.

Coming off a 2-0 playoff victory against Augsburg University, the Scots knew a tough road lay ahead. No team would envy a semifinal matchup against regular season champion St. Olaf College, especially not with the team coming off a first-round bye. On Nov. 2,the Scots, prepared to take on the challenge, stepped up to the plate. 

When the Scots played the Oles during the regular season at the end of September, they forced a 1-1 draw with a dramatic goal with eight seconds remaining on the clock. The only other team in the MIAC to yield such a result was Gustavus Adolphus College — who finished the season with an identical conference record to the Scots. The Oles beat every other team they faced in the MIAC.

With that result, the Scots felt they could defeat St. Olaf and advance to the championship round, but they knew victory wouldn’t come easy. In the days after their victory over the Auggies, Head Coach Gregg Olson prepared his players for the matchup ahead.

“Saint Olaf has a very talented team with a few special players,” Olson wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “They have [a] depth of players and a potent attack that produces a lot of goals from various scenarios. Therefore, our game plan was complex. We took our time preparing to play the Oles by using multiple days of teaching [and] learning, both in the classroom and on the field.”

The Scots faced off against the Oles on a brisk autumn afternoon. With piles of snow dotting the sidelines, the Scots donned their blue and orange and came out of the gates with an aggressive offensive attack.

In the early stages of the game, the Scots created a number of good chances for themselves, including two shots by forward Grant Luce ’25. One forced a narrow save from Ole keeper Peter Forseth, and one flew mere inches from the post.

Despite dominating possession for the first 31 minutes of play, the Scots gave up a deep throw-in in the 32nd minute. Ole defender Ryan Bechtel threw the ball right in front of the goal, seemingly intended for an Oles’ header, but it dropped instead, and before Scots keeper Sam Price ’25 could react, Oles midfielder Victor Gaulmin tapped it in to give St. Olaf their first goal of the game.

Finishing the half only one down, the Scots hoped to take back control of the match but soon after play resumed, the Scots fouled Gaulmin in the box, allowing him to knock in a penalty, putting the Oles up 2-0 with just over 40 minutes left to play.

“It is hard to know what happened on Saint Olaf’s first goal off their long throw-in,” Olson wrote. “We just didn’t win the battle to get to the ball first. The penalty, that was tough, but the right call. They just got behind us with a very smart run off the ball and our defender ended up getting tripped up with the Ole.”

Even facing a deficit, Olson had faith in his squad to continue fighting and pull out the victory. 

“Being down a goal or even two, we always talk about that we have been down a goal, up a goal, scored early and scored late,” Olson wrote. “No matter where we are in a game, we believe that we can fight our way back into a game against any opponent. Keep playing, have faith.” 

Despite the Oles’ two goals, the Scots had played well up to that point. Their offense was aggressive and their defense held up well throughout the game, as forward Branko Sciortino ’24 described. 

“I think the backline also did an amazing job to the point where Olaf mid-game was struggling tactically to put something together to get past our backline,” Sciortino said. “I think everybody kind of came in and did their job.”

At the center of this defense, as it had been all year, was Price. While he did concede the shot off the throw-in and the penalty, he remained strong throughout the game, stopping the ball even when the Oles were in prime position to score.

“Sam has been a great goalkeeper all year long,” Olson said. “He makes reaction saves that others could not dream of getting a hand to the ball. Not only did Sam play well in this game, but his defense blocked a couple key point blank shots too.”

Price’s play, along with the rest of the defense, allowed the Scots to stay in the game. Their efforts paid off when, in the 57th minute, the Scots had a free kick from just beyond the corner of the box. Midfielder Elijah Edelman ’27 took the kick, and instead of looking to lob it in for someone else to finish, as Sciortino expected, he took the shot himself and scored.

“Elijah has an incredible ability on free kicks,” Olson wrote. “He can consistently and accurately place the ball exactly where he wants to with a high velocity. Teams now know that if they foul us near the box, we have an absolute weapon.”

The Scots continued to fight for the rest of the game, but the Oles retained possession. The Scots had a few good buildups left in them, culminating in back-to-back corner kicks to end the game. The first chance came close, but Forseth tipped it above the goal and out of bounds. The second one ended up in the Oles possession, and they cleared it downfield to secure the win.

“Attacking corner kicks are a great way to score goals,” Olson wrote. “However, the percentage of conversion is never as good as you want it to be. I don’t think anything went wrong per sé. I think we just missed our chance.” 

The Scots ended their season with those misses, falling to the Oles 2-1. Two days later, the Oles went on to beat Gustavus in a shootout, winning on penalties 4-3 after leaving the game with a 1-1 tie. Even though the Scots lost, Sciortino refused to be pessimistic.

“The result was unfortunate, but I’m definitely proud of the way we played, the way we carried ourselves,” Sciortino said. “Especially going down early in the game — and then they had a penalty in the second — the team was very resilient with how the game was going. I think they showed a lot of character and a lot of heart, so I’m very proud of how the team fought back.”

Olson agreed, saying that his team gave it their all.

“Though we lost the game 1-2, the coaching staff felt the team nailed the game plan,” Olson wrote. “Their two goals were not typical for Saint Olaf [to score,] and they were not typical for us to give away. We had more possession in the game, more shots, more corners … statistically we did enough to win the game.”

Sciortino talked about this semifinals loss as a building block. The Scots had 15 first years on their roster this season, making them an incredibly young team. Though Sciortino will not be with them next season, he thinks that this game will be a learning opportunity for his soon-to-be-former squad.

“I think this year, it felt like we underperformed, which is a good thing going forward,” Sciortino said. “I think that it’s going to create a bit more passion and more drive to understand what it takes to get to that level.”

Olson also made sure to emphasize the historic nature of the season. While a semifinals loss may not seem incredible, he believes that this season stands out against others in recent years.

“We had an amazing season,” he wrote. “Probably our best one since 2015. And, we have been in two MIAC Championship games since 2015 so that is saying a lot. We scored more goals than any Macalester team since 2003 or earlier.”

Olson also emphasized that his team’s excellence extends beyond their play, pointing out that his Scots have had spectacular academic performances as well.

“Not only is this team incredible on the field, but they have had the highest GPA of all DI, DII and DIII men’s soccer teams (over 830 teams / colleges) two out of the last three years,” Olson wrote. “The one year we didn’t have the highest GPA, we had the 2nd highest GPA in the nation.”

After their season concluded, five Scots received recognition from the MIAC on Nov. 6 for their on-field activity. Kasdan Blattman ’27, Hans Haenicke ’25, and Nick Kent ’26 received All-MIAC honors. Ian Staresnic ’25 and Edelman received honorable mentions. Blattman and Staresnic both received All-Playoff recognition as well.

“They all deserved it and more,” Sciortino said. “I think Elijah and Ian could’ve been bumped up to the All-MIAC instead of honorable mention, but unbelievable performances year-round from these guys. Super proud of them and what they’ve done.”

Olson and Sciortino both emphasized that every player had an impact on the team’s success. Sciortino especially felt that Price deserved more recognition for his work defending the goal.

“I’m shocked that he didn’t get any sort of All-MIAC recognition, because he’s had an unbelievable season,” Sciortino said. “He’s one of those guys that is always very reliable and understands his position very well. He saves us time and time again. So it’s annoying for me to see that he’s not getting the recognition I think he [deserves].”

With Price and all their All-MIAC and Honorable Mention selections returning next season, along with their massive class of soon-to-be-second years coming back with a full season under their belts, Olson thinks that the Scots are set up for success.

“I think we are going to win the MIAC next season,” Olson wrote. “Please print that. I think we will raise a trophy in the 2024 season!”

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