Parker Burman – Staff Writer
The Gustavus Men’s Soccer finished up their season and run in the NCAA Tournament with a 1-0 defeat against the University of Chicago in the Elite Eight. Even though their season ended with a loss, this season was one of the most successful years in program history. It was their first quarterfinal since 2005 and just their third ever in program history.
“This run showed us that we really do belong at the highest level and that we can play with the best. Knowing our group of players, I have no doubt in my mind that we will be back and we will be ready for whatever challenge lies ahead,” said Junior Raphael Cattelin.
In the Gustie men’s NCAA third round match up against conference rival St. Olaf the Gusties had a chance to host a home NCAA tournament game. Playing in the bitter cold in a packed house, the Gustavus men put on a performance to remember. Getting their revenge for their MIAC Championship loss, the Gusties won 2-2 after a 4-3 shootout.
Gustavus fell behind early after St. Olaf scored the opening goal due to Gustavus scoring on themselves. Nearly eight minutes later Junior Owen Johnson set up Cattelin for the equalizing goal to make the game 1-1.
“During the game against St. Olaf we were up against a familiar rival that knows a lot about how we like to play. St. Olaf are an incredibly gifted team, and since it was our third time playing them this year the thing that helped us break them down was our teamwork. Individual efforts were not going to be enough to get past St. Olaf, so our moments of success came when we were able to combine and work together as a cohesive unit to break through,” said Johnson.
Starting off the second period the way they did the first, St. Olaf was able to score on their own to make it 2-1. Once again a helper from Johnson to Cattelin was what the Gusties needed to get back on the board and tie the game. The score would remain even the rest of the half resulting in penalty kicks.
“Scoring goals is just about being more determined and more ruthless than the opposing team’s defenders. Goals are also not scored without the help of one’s teammates. If I don’t have the quality of player’s around me like I do, my job would be much much harder. Being able to link up play with players like Otis, Owen and Sam, just to name a few, is any forwards dream,” said Cattelin.
Both Gustavus and St. Olaf made their first round of penalty kicks before Senior goaltender Wesley Sanders made an acrobatic save to stop an Ole score. Gustavus was not able to capitalize on the save and the score remained 1-1 entering the third round.
An Ole miss to start the third opened the door for Gustavus as Cattelin scored, followed by both Sophomore Teig O’Kelly and Sophomore Clarence Weah. This shootout victory is what propelled them to their match up with Chicago in the next round.
The Elite Eight match against Chicago placed the No. 5 Gusties against the No. 2 ranked Maroons for a trip to the final four. The game was low scoring with the only Chicago goal coming after a penalty was committed in the box by Gustavus. On the penalty kick, Sanders made a valiant effort to stop the shot but it still went in to give the Maroons a 1-0 lead which is all they would need.
With the Gusties being knocked out after their match with Chicago they hope that the lessons they learned throughout the year will propel them to a championship next season.
“It was everything I thought it would be and then some. At the start of the year our whole team sat in a room and talked about some of the goals we had as a group. One of the goals we had was to not only make it to the NCAA tournament, but to be one of the hosting teams. The fact we were able to accomplish that in itself already makes for a successful season, but we also wanted more,” said Cattelin.
“This season has been such a great experience for our team. I don’t think that it has set in quite yet, but I know that looking back at this season in years to come we will realize how special of a season it was. Making it as far as we did and ending the season with the record we did does not happen often. The thing that will set this team apart from other teams though was not that we were able to get as far as we did, but the camaraderie and team culture that our team had all year,” said Johnson.