Gustavus’ Men’s Soccer team sits in a tie for first place as they enter the heart of the season
Last Sunday the Gustavus Men’s Soccer team made program history, when they defeated Concordia in their first MIAC matchup of the season and tallied one more in the win column, and the total wins reached 400. Senior defender and Captain Todd Johnson said, “I think the tradition that the Gustavus Men’s Soccer program has can’t be overlooked. It is truly an honor to wear gold and black and be a part of something special like that,” said Senior defender and Captain Todd Johnson.
Reaching this milestone has not been an easy task. Last season, the men’s team made it all the way to the first-round of the NCAA tournament only to lose to Whitworth University in a 2-1 overtime finish. The end of the season also meant the loss of 12 key seniors, and for a time it seemed as though an empire had fallen. But the start of a new season always brings new spirits, and hopefully some new skills.
The Gusties traveled to Washington to start off their season. Junior midfielder and Washington native Skyler Schulz said that playing in Washington “was a very valuable experience, and it tested us early and showed that we have a lot of talent, but also that we have a lot of areas where we need to improve.” In their first game they defeated Pacific Lutheran University 1-0. The lone goal came from Senior forward Ben Eriksson.
Yet hopes of an undefeated season were quickly crushed when the same team that stole the team’s chance at an NCAA title struck the Gusties once more. Whitworth defeated the Gusties 4-0, scoring on only 5 shots. “It showed us that we need[ed] to pick our level up and [it] was something valuable we could hold onto as we move further down our schedule,” said Johnson.
Nonetheless, the Gusties did not let the loss weaken their stride as they went on to crush their next three opponents. Last year’s bench was full of talent. That, combined with the addition of a new class, including three starters, made the transition from last season easier “Graduating 12 seniors was tough and we had to rebuild a little bit around our strengths that we held on to,” said Sophomore forward Chris Golv, who has helped this effort with two goals and two assists already this season.
The Gusties found enough to build around. “The reserve squad is a lot stronger than last year, and competition and energy at practice is really high,” said Sophomore midfielder Jake Heaps.
Johnson agrees that there is an excess of prowess. “We are still, to this day, after playing five matches, trying to figure out what our team is going to look like for the rest of the year,” said Johnson.
Although this may make it seem as though the team is without a plan, “[The competition] keeps practice intensity high on a daily basis, as everyone brings their best to the table,” said Johnson.
This newfound depth gave the Gusties an opportunity to try a fresh approach. Heaps described it as “a really up-tempo style of play that can create scoring opportunities very quickly.” This year they are “using a new formation from previous years, and the team chemistry is much different with very team-oriented players,” said Schulz.
This past Saturday afternoon, the Gusties took on St. John’s in a tough MIAC match-up. Gustavus Junior Bret VanderStreek gave his team a 1-0 lead early with a little help from a pass off the foot of fellow Junior Fraser Horton. The Gusties added a pair of goals in the second half, one from Mark Adams and the other attributed to Ben Ikeda, ending the contest with a score of 3-0 in favor of the Gusties.
On Tuesday of this past week, the team hosted St. Mary’s University, a game that saw a thirty-five minute delay due to heavy rain. Gustavus went to the locker room at halftime with a 1-0 lead, a goal scored on a Schulz penalty shot in the 33rd minute.
Senior Flynn Stewart-Franzen scored the second Gustavus goal on a header via a pass from first-year Ben Ceder in the 74th minute and Horton’s free kick goal in the 83rd minute put the Gusties up by three, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Sophomore goalie Luke Strom had three saves in the contest, and posted his second consecutive shutout.
Over the course of their current five game winning streak, the Gusties have outscored their opponents 21-1.
Gustavus will host a pair of contests this weekend. MIAC foe Carleton comes to town on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. and the Gusties take on Simpson College the next day at 2 p.m.
“This season has been a lot of fun so far. The group of guys we have on the team this year is phenomenal. From the first-years we have stepping up, to our senior leaders, to have the success we have on the field, there needs to be some form of unity off the field as well as on,” said Vanderstreek. “The guys this year have the kind of talent, passion and respect for the game you want to see in a team that is in the hunt for a MIAC championship.”
Photo Courtesy Of: Sports Information