by HARRIET KING & ABBEY MAGNET
Staff Writer & Sports Editor
The stands filled with fans as the UMW Eagles warmed up on the turf, preparing for the third round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship against the Washington College Shoremen. Their 18-1-2 record was a testament to all the players’ work throughout the season, and fans were excited to see what the game would bring.
Junior business major Maggie Hatton recalled the anticipation of the fans before the game.
“Everyone was super hyped up and the energy was so contagious,” said Hatton. “Usually there’s some friends and a couple families of the players, but this time it was like everyone’s family, friends, and students from both schools so it was really lively. We were all just really excited because we knew it was gonna be a really good game from both sides.”
The Eagles started with possession of the ball when the whistle blew at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18. They maintained possession for the majority of both halves, working the ball around the Shoremen’s strong defensive strategy of all 10 field players dropping back to mark inside the box, according to the game coverage on UMW’s Men’s Soccer website.
“I want to say that it’s even but I don’t think it was, I think we had the upper hand, but they had the better defensive strategy,” said junior environmental science major Holly Anthony who attended the game.
When asked about the matchup, junior starting forward and political science major Carter Berg described some of the strategies behind the game.
“Washington College was a really good team with a fantastic game plan,” he said. “They knew they couldn’t compete with us in terms of keeping possession, so they sat all their players behind the ball making it extremely crowded for us on the attack, and waited to hit us on the counterattacks.”
Hatton shared the spectator’s perspective of the first half.
“Washington College was holding a lot of people back on defense, so every one of our guys was constantly marked by multiple people,” she said. “Their goalie had an amazing game, he saved shots that would’ve been goals in any other game.”
The Eagles were tied with the Shoremen at the end of the first half, but they led in shots 8–4. The Shoremen’s first shot on goal, which was their closest scoring attempt of the half, hit the crossbar.
UMW continued to bring the heat in the second half, outshooting the Shoremen 12–1.
According to the game coverage on the UMW Men’s Soccer website, Washington College’s Tshazi Kamau scored the only goal of the game in the second half off of a give-and-go from Ben Strine. The Eagles pressed forward after the goal, with one shot hitting the post in the last few minutes of the game.
“I think it was an evenly matched game, but UMW was still dominating the whole time. That’s why it was such a bummer when they got a lucky shot in,” said Hatton. “I was definitely still expecting us to come back at the end and win. UMW always gets last minute goals, and once we get one it usually leads to 2 or 3 more. We just couldn’t break their defense to get that momentum.”
From an on-field perspective, Berg commented on the game.
“We were the better team on the day, but if the better team always won then sports wouldn’t be fun, and all credit to them considering they played exactly how they needed to to get a result against us,” said Berg.
The 1–0 score may have ended the Eagles’ season, but that doesn’t take away from what they accomplished over the last few months.
Mary Washington men’s soccer was ranked in the top five NCAA Division III teams all season, and they also ranked number one for two weeks. The team also performed successfully on the field in the first two rounds of the tournament.
Leading up to the tournament, the Eagles took to the Battlefield on Nov. 11 where they competed in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Neumann University.
In the first round, senior business administration major Josh Kirkland set the game in motion with the first and only goal of the game. Goalkeeper and junior business administration major Freddy Rogers prevented Neumann from further scoring by deflecting four shots on goal. With a successful offense and defense, the Eagles won with a final score of 3–1, allowing them to advance to the next round.
Then, on Sunday, Nov. 12, the Eagles faced off against John Carroll University in the second round of the tournament. Berg started off the game strong with the first goal, followed by a second successful shot by senior business administration major Diego Guzman. After the third and final goal, which was scored by Berg, the crowd went wild, as it guaranteed the Eagles’ position in the NCAA sectional semifinals lineup with a final score of 3–2.
Looking back on the season as a whole, Berg reflected on the team’s dynamic.
“It was an incredible season which ended far too early, I’d say. We have a really special group of guys, both in terms of the skill on the field … and in how well we get along off it,” he said.“We faced every game with the mindset that if we just played our game and stuck together we knew there was no team better than us. It was a fantastic three months of soccer and I already can’t wait for next year.”