The Trinity men’s soccer team advanced to the Round of 16 of the Division III NCAA tournament on Sunday, Nov. 11, after the defense registered their ninth and 10th shutouts of the season over Chapman University and University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) with two straight victories of 3–0.

Trinity earned the right to host the first two rounds after being ranked No. 5 in the nation and clinching an automatic postseason birth by winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) tournament.

In the first round, Trinity faced Chapman, who entered the matchup as the underdog. The Chapman Panthers surprised many by rallying to win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) tournament to preserve their spot in the NCAA tournament. Throughout the year, they relied on their defense to win games, as the offense averaged only 1.35 goals per match.

Even though Trinity had the advantage on paper, the Panthers kept the game close through the first half by only allowing one goal to Trinity sophomore midfielder Jacob Hallenberger in the 30th minute. Hallenberger received a pass from senior co-captain and forward Austin Michaelis that just missed another player cutting towards the goal. Luckily for Hallenberger, he was in the right place at the right time. He rifled the ball into the back of the net with a left foot strike.

In the 69th minute, Hallenberger and Michaelis teamed up once again for a score. This time, Hallenberger booted his corner kick to junior defender Brady Johnston, who headed the ball towards Michaelis. Michaelis made an athletic play to tap the ball past the goalie with the back of his left heel.

Junior forward Vetle Masvaer Halle joined the scoring fun when he knocked home a penalty kick in the 81st minute.

The Panthers took 15 shots and had plenty of fair chances throughout the game but couldn’t get anything past junior goalkeeper Blake Lieberman. Lieberman felt that the 10 players in front of him did just as much, if not more, to keep the Panthers scoreless.

“Personally, I thought my distribution was pretty poor,” Lieberman said. “Full credit to the 10 guys in front of me. The defensive pressure started with Andrea [Codispoti] doing a fantastic job of closing down high up the field. That set the tone for the midfielders taking care of their assignments. Both of our outside backs had an incredible weekend, and as always the two center backs were absolutely phenomenal.”

Trinity advanced to play UMHB in the second round, again at Paul McGinlay field. In the first round, UMHB beat Southwestern University 2–0 to move on to the Round of 32, setting up a revenge game for Trinity.

Last year, UMHB upset the Tigers in overtime of a second round game to cut Trinity’s season short. Once the Tigers knew they would meet UMHB in the second round again, they immediately remembered last season.

“We were not expecting to lose that game last year, and when we did, it left an awful taste in our mouths,” Hallenberger said. “[Today] we played the same program, in the same round, at the same field and in the same weather. Before the game, we all looked at each other and said that this is an identical redo from last year.”

This matchup paired the solid back line of UMHB against one of the best offenses in Division III. UMHB senior defenders Steven Dang and Carl Vandergriff received first team all-conference selections, while senior goalkeeper Travis Aday received a second team nomination. However, coming into the game Trinity had the fifth best scoring offense in Division III with 3.65 goals per game.

For the first 20, the two teams traded shots with each keeper, making athletic plays to keep the game scoreless. Finally, in the 26th minute, the Tigers got one on the board. Hallenberger perfectly placed a corner kick to sophomore co-captain and midfielder Quentin Van Der Lee who headed the ball towards the goal, but Aday blocked it.

The ball bounced around inside the box from player to player in a heap of confusion. Eventually, Johnston found the ball and booted it past the keeper with his left foot. Trinity headed into halftime with a one goal lead.

UMHB began the second half on an aggressive push. Within two minutes, Lieberman made two impressive plays, including a diving save in the 50th minute. As soon as he could, Lieberman threw the ball to an advancing Trinity player to begin the counterattack.

After a few minutes, Van Der Lee found sophomore midfielder Ethan Moore about 10 yards from the box. With no one around him, Moore sent a laser with his right foot.

The ball took an unexpected bounce, fooling the keeper and finding the back of the net in the 52nd minute.

UMHB never reestablished their offense going after Moore’s goal.

To add insult to injury, senior defender Liam Looney added another goal in the 75th minute. Aday could have saved Looney’s shot from 10 yards outside the box, but the ball rolled off his hands and into the goal.

Trinity will move on to the Sweet Sixteen to face No. 3 University of Chicago in Chicago on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 1:00 p.m. Trinity played University of Chicago earlier this year on Sept. 2. That game ended in a 3–3 tie after two overtime periods. However, this game cannot end in a tie, as it is a postseason game.

The Tigers feel that their previous game with UChicago will help prepare them for the tournament game.

“By playing them once, we have an idea of how they play and who their dangerous players are,” Hallenberger said. “They are a very good team and we must be physically and mentally ready.”

The Tigers also feel like a different team since their September encounter with UChicago.

“We have a new formation and new personnel on the field as well as the warrior mentality to fight for each other and give everything we have for our team,” Johnston said. “It is this mentality that has lead to our success.”

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