Photo by Alejandra Gerlach
Last weekend, Trinity men’s soccer team reached the peak of their season, as they defeated the University of UT-Dallas 3–1 in the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Men’s Soccer Championship at home. Just 24 hours later after the high point of the season, the Tigers’ season crashed to an end with a 2–0 loss against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the second round of the tournament.
When the Tigers took the field on Saturday, the stands were crowded with students in maroon eager to see how the team would perform after backing into the NCAA Tournament. After losing in the semi-finals of the SCAC championship, Trinity’s men’s soccer team earned an at-large bid to the tournament and got the shot to step up their game offensively. The game was just 57 seconds in, when sophomore forward Philip Duenez opened the scoring with a goal assisted by junior forward Wesley Mitchell.
The energy was electric in the stands as the fans celebrated the goal that set the tone for the rest of the game. Trinity maintained control of the ball throughout the first half, preventing UT-Dallas from scoring.
In the second half, senior midfielder Josh Davis scored the Tigers’ second goal, assisted by sophomore mid-fielder Fraser Burns. Junior midfielder Andrea Codispoti sealed the deal with Trinity’s third goal at the 85-minute mark. UT-Dallas managed to score in the last five minutes, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the three goal deficit. Senior goalkeeper and co-captain Blake Lieberman made five saves to preserve Trinity’s game-long lead.
Saturday’s win meant that Trinity advanced to the second round of tournament play. The Tigers played again fewer than 24 hours later at home against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS).
On Sunday, the sun beat down on the pitch as the pressure and anticipation for the game built up. The stands weren’t as full as they were for the game against UT-Dallas, but fans in the stands weren’t any less loud.
Neither team could get the upper hand on the other in the first half. However, CMS came back after half-time playing more aggressively on offense. The Stags took an onslaught of shots that culminated in 12 shots overall and six shots on goal.
CMS scored the first goal of the game 78 minutes into the game, and a second ball, which narrowly made it into the goal, quickly followed at 81 minutes to seal the win for the Stags and dash the Tigers’ hopes of moving on to the Sweet 16.
According to junior midfielder and co-captain Quentin Van Der Lee, there wasn’t one specific cause of Trinity’s loss on Sunday.
“I’m not sure something specific went wrong. I think it was a competitive game against a good team. We had to take our chances, and we didn’t take our chances early,” Van Der Lee said. “We ended up chasing the game a little bit because they were willing to take their chances when they had their momentum, and we didn’t do as good a job doing that when we had our momentum during stretches of the game.”
Lieberman believes a key factor in Sunday’s outcome was the aggressive offense CMS presented.
“Claremont put a lot of pressure on us with balls over the top. It was a kind of relentless ball in that we had to deal with. That was a bit tough to deal with and they pressed very well,” Lieberman said. “Props to Claremont. They played a really good game, and it’s part of [the] game; it’s part of soccer. You live for the ups. You also got to live in the downs.”
Trinity’s loss marks the end of a challenging season for the men’s soccer team. In many ways, the NCAA Championship gave Trinity the chance to make up for the disappointments of the season. Ultimately, according to head coach Paul McGinlay, the team’s last weekend had both highs and lows.
“I think we were hungry to go a little further than we did, and all credit to bouncing back after getting the tournament bid and having the account of ourselves that we showed,” McGinley said. “It wasn’t through lack of effort, it wasn’t through lack of commitment, [and] it wasn’t through lack of energy. We had a positive approach to the game and we just came up short.”