c/o Steve McLoughlin Photography

c/o Steve McLoughlin Photography

Upon completing the season with a winning record, the Wesleyan Men’s Soccer Team spent the weekend awaiting the NCAA’s decision on whether or not they make the D3 national tournament.

After their unfortunate tie (yes, the loss in penalties counted as a tie) two weekends ago to Middlebury College in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC tournament, the 10–3–3 Cardinals entered into a pool of other teams across the country who failed to win their respective conference tournaments. A complex algorithm decided wild card spots, alongside all the conference winners, with a few decisions made by a committee when two teams were of similar strengths. Unfortunately, the odds were not in the team’s favor, and they will not be competing at the NCAAs this year.

Like other Division 3 soccer teams, the Cardinals have had many ups and a few downs this season. The team has relied on its underclassman players this season, with a few (Dane Harmaty ’24, Evan O’Brien ’24, Lucas Ruehlemann ’25, and Oliver Clarke ’25) in key starting roles. There was an especially large hole to fill offensively, as striker and co-captain JJ Lacorte ’22 tore an MCL while trying to play through a torn ACL, and ultimately decided to spend the rest of his semester rehabilitating at home. Between other injuries and first-year and sophomore players competing in their first-ever NESCAC games, the Cardinals struggled at the beginning of the season. However, the adversity didn’t stop the team from finding success on the field.

“This team really grew into their ability throughout the year, and learned very fast,” Captain Lucas Kimball ’22 said. 

After losing their first two conference games, Wesleyan won or tied the next seven. Harmatty and Ruehlemann provided a much-needed offensive boost throughout this run, with Kimball and co-captain Nick Wallick ’22 manning the midfield and defense, respectively.  

The Cardinals began the season with a roster of close to 45 players. Some players were cut due to their inability to complete the fitness tests, and others chose not to remain on the team, but the roster remained fairly large at the start of the season, still carrying over 30 athletes. Given the sheer number of bodies, Coach Geoff Wheeler, along with his captains, decided to bring a roster of “active” players to every away game, while leaving “inactive” players back on campus. As the season went on, the importance of a lively bench became apparent to the team leadership. 

“We saw the value that even the guys who weren’t playing were bringing to the team by supporting the people who were on the pitch,” Kimball said.

The full team began to travel to every away game, and seemed to have a tangible impact on final scores. On Sept. 11, the Cardinals lost 3–1. Nearly two months later, the final result was 0–0 in the books, though Middlebury advanced in the tournament due to their win in penalty kicks.

Although they were edged out by Middlebury, Kimball believed that the game represented the extent to which the Cardinals had come together as a team. 

“The main difference was that…we knew how we wanted to play as a team, and we had a lot of success keeping the ball, moving the ball quickly, in a free-flowing attack,” Kimball said.

Despite the injuries throughout the season and losing a co-captain in Lacorte, the team continued to grow and learn how to compensate for their weaknesses. The Cardinals struggled early to defend set pieces, a problem that was exacerbated when key defenders got injured throughout the season. Thankfully, the depth of this Cards squad served the team well.

The future is bright for Wesleyan men’s soccer, with prowess in every position and an eager returning class of players. While their season has come to an end, prepare for a strong comeback in 2022. Roll Cards.

Lewis Woloch can be reached at lwoloch@wesleyan.edu. 

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