In what turned out to be a largely disappointing year for the men’s soccer team, the season concluded in a string of heartbreaking losses. With four games left to play, the Cardinals had a chance to win and roll into the NESCAC tournament with some momentum after an up-and-down year, but their efforts largely fell flat. Two Saturdays ago, on Oct. 15, the team fell in overtime to Little Three rival Williams before losing at Middlebury the following day. This past weekend, on homecoming Saturday, the Cardinals suffered yet another heartbreaking overtime defeat at the hands of Amherst and concluded the season against Conn College. The team finished the season with a 5-9-1 record and a 2-8-1 in NESCAC play, far below the team’s expectations entering the season.
As the season concludes, the program will wave goodbye to a number of players: captains Charlie Gruner ’17 and Danny Rubenstein ’17, as well as goalies Eric Jasinski ’17 and Jack Katkavich ’17. Forward Dylan Hoy ’17 also concludes a four-year stint, while Nick Miceli ’17 wraps up the first and only season of his Cardinal soccer career. Gruner, Rubenstein, Hoy and Miceli combined for 6 goals and 7 assists, totaling 19 points, while Katkavich and Jasinski managed 118 saves and 6 shutouts in net. Altogether, the class won 30 games throughout their four years donning the red and black.
“The outgoing senior class means a lot to me personally and the program as a whole,” Nick Jackson ’18 said. “On a personal level, they were all great mentors from day one of freshman year. We were brought in with open arms and it made the transition much easier for my class. They were also great role models off the field and set an example for the team. The class brought a lot of success to the program. Most notably [Gruner], [Rubenstein], and [Katkavich] were consistent starters throughout their four years. They impacted every game from the start until the end of their careers. Gruner was all-league in his previous three years, an award which was very deserved. The group brought fight to every game, no matter what the circumstances.”
On Saturday, Oct. 15, the team traveled to Williamstown, Mass. to take on the Ephs. A scoreless first half gave way to a Williams goal in the 59th minute, before a Gruner penalty kick evened the score between the two rivals. In overtime, Williams secured the victory with a goal just over five minutes into extra time. Williams led Wesleyan in both shots and shots on targets, while the Cardinals held the edge in corner kicks. Katkavich made three saves in the afternoon.
The following day, the team drove to Middlebury to take on the ever-dangerous Panthers. The home team first drew blood in this affair, scoring at the 30:29 mark of the first half. Despite solid scoring chances by Hoy and Jackson, the Cardinal attack was held at bay. The Panthers added a second half goal as an insurance policy, and the 2-0 lead held through the 90th minute to ensure the victory. Katkavich made six saves in net, while Middlebury overpowered Wesleyan in total shots as well as shots on goal.
This past Saturday, the Cardinals hosted Little Three foe Amherst for a homecoming affair. Before the game, the departing seniors were honored, and the Cardinals channeled that energy into playing a competitive first half. A scoreless game at halftime turned into a barn-burner in the second half, as the teams combined for five goals. In tough conditions that included rain and wind, Garrett Hardesty ’18 scored his fifth goal of the year in the 63rd minute, breaking open the scoreless tie. Adam Cowie-Haskell’s ’18 eighth goal of the season, in the 75th minute, added to the Cardinal cushion. However, Amherst rallied for an epic comeback in the final minutes of the game. At 84:14, Amherst’s Rohan Sood beat Jasinski, before Cameron Hardington beat him again four minutes later. In overtime, excellent chances were for naught by Eric Gooden ’19 and Gruner, whose shot sailed off the crossbar. A penalty kick by the visitors in the 109th minute ended the Cardinal’s upset bid and spoiled the earlier emotion of the afternoon.
In the season finale, the Cardinals fell to Conn College, which concluded a thoroughly disappointing season.
“My class and I will do our best to carry along the foundation that has been created in the past few years,” Jackson said. “We have had great leaders the past two years, most notably, and will hope to replicate the leadership and family-first mentality that has been created in the program. This was one of the most frustrating seasons of soccer I’ve played in my entire life. We struggled with injuries and we were the better team in most of the games we lost, but couldn’t find the right combinations going forward and couldn’t get on the same page defending. Small errors and lack of attention to detail, in the end, killed our season. However, it was a joy to play with this group of guys. The camaraderie and dedication brought forth every day at practice was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a team before, especially considering our results. We will definitely be looking to make things right next fall and will have the seniors in the back of our minds.”