Men’s Soccer Excels to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen

Parker BurmanStaff Writer

Last weekend, the Gustavus men’s soccer team hosted the NCAA tournament. The Gusties won against Aurora University on Saturday and UW-Eau Claire on Sunday, advancing them to the Sweet 16 of the national tournament in Chicago next weekend. The key component of the weekend was Senior goalkeeper Wesley Sanders, who made four stops in seven rounds of penalty kicks that won the Gusties the game on Sunday. “We had a disappointing end to last season so we all wanted to make up for that, do even more, go above and beyond and have an even better season, which we are in the process of doing,” Senior forward Raphael Cattelin said.   

The first round of the tournament started on Saturday morning as the Gusties faced bitterly cold temperatures. Senior defenseman Otis Anderson scored a free kick at the 8:42 mark of the game and put the Gusties in a 1-0 lead. Later in the game, Sophomore forward Clarence Weah scored his third goal of the season and the Gusties held their 2-0 lead until the end of the game. 

Sanders made his 12th shutout of the season with four saves against Aurora University. The team advanced to the second round of the tournament on Sunday to face UW-Eau Claire. “Overall a big part of our team has been defense this year. We have always been really good at keeping clean sheets so we can thank Wes for that, but also our centerbacks, Jared, Ethan, Otis, and Nate as they have been crucial to our team this season, allowing us to not concede goals,” Cattelin said. 

Sunday’s game was determined by two rounds of overtime and seven penalty kicks. UW-Eau Claire took an early lead as they scored within the first four minutes of the game. “We were all trying to rally people. The exact opposite of Saturday’s game happened in this game, we went down early, so we were trying to get people back into the game and not put our heads down and get back to it,” Sanders said. With less than seven minutes left in the half, Cattelin was fouled inside the 18 which set the Gusties up for a penalty kick. Anderson scored the PK and tied the game 1-1 at the half. 

With a no-score second half, the game was sent into overtime. After double overtime, the winner was still not decided and the game would have to be determined by penalty kicks. “I had good nerves. This was the first time I was able to play in NCAA games because I was injured my freshman year and missed it. I was just so excited to play this weekend and have been looking forward to these games for three years. I think our team was prepared from the get-go, everyone was focused, ready for the challenge ahead, no one was looking too far and we just took it one day, game, and play at a time,” Cattelin said. 

Weah and Anderson made the Gusties’ first two penalty kicks and Sanders stopped the first two Blugold shots, putting Gustavus ahead 2-0. “My spot that I usually go to is to the left but I saw the keeper kinda gravitating towards that area. So I went to his right, which I have actually never done before. It just felt so great to get a goal for the team and set the tone with the first penalty kick,” Weah said. UW-Eau Claire came back and made their third and fourth shots while the Gusties missed their next two. Junior Owen Johnson made the shot in the fifth round, keeping up with the Blugolds, who also made their fifth. Both teams missed their sixth shots, so it was up to the Gusties to finish it up in the seventh round. Sophomore defenseman Teig O’Kelley made the seventh shot giving Gustavus a 4-3 lead. Sanders made the biggest save of the game as he stopped the Blugold ball and solidified the Gustavus win. The Gusties ran onto the field in celebration as the fans rose to their feet in awe. “To win in that dramatic fashion is something I think I am going to remember for a long time,” Sanders said.

Sanders had four stops during the game and made another four stops in the shootout. The Gustie win was the perfect ending to a nail-biter game. “That feeling after the penalty shootout, that’s a feeling I’ve rarely ever felt in my life. It was just so shocking and a total ‘wow’ moment where I felt so relieved and excited. Everything was just so surreal in the moment and that is for sure one of the top moments in my soccer career,” Cattelin said. The Gusties have had an unbelievable season thus far and now have momentum to carry them through the rest of the tournament. They will face their only loss of the season again, the St. Olaf Oles this Saturday, Nov. 20, in Chicago. The drive and grit of the Gustavus team will carry them throughout the rest of the games as the rest of the Gustie community will be supporting them from the hill.