By Oliver DeBarros
Sam Clougher ’17 has just been named D3soccer.com’s Goalkeeper of the Year, but he’s not getting cocky about it. In fact, Clougher argued that he wouldn’t have gotten the honor without the hard work of fellow D3soccer.com honoree Sam Justice ’15 and the rest of the Lords’ defense. “To be honest, I didn’t do much,” Clougher said. “I didn’t have to make a mistake; I didn’t get the ball because Sam wouldn’t let me.”
The entire roster of the men’s soccer team have a lot to be proud of. Their 2014 season will go down as one of the most successful in the program’s history. The Lords claimed the program’s first-ever North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Tournament win and advanced to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Sweet 16 for the second year in a row. The team held its highest national ranking in over a decade and broke multiple team records. The Lords were recognized with many team and individual awards by several voting committees, most recently D3soccer.com, which recognized Justice and Clougher as Division-III All-Americans.
“It’s cool to be recognized,” Justice said. “Obviously, it [also] speaks to the success of our program. I think Sam and I had great seasons individually, but in order to get put on this list, we had to have a great season collectively as a team.”
Clougher, who was also named D3soccer.com’s Goalkeeper of the Year, further emphasized the team’s role in receiving his personal accolade. “I didn’t expect it at all,” he said. “I spent the whole year behind by far the best back four in the country; until the very last game, we had the best stats in the country by far. If any of the five of us got something, you take it as a whole unit.”
For Justice, the award caps a great career at Kenyon where he was a four-year starter. “It’s definitely cool to go out like this with the season we’ve had,” he said. “We were ranked number two for most of the season. … Of course, we have important players on the team from all of the different classes, and the sophomore class right now — those players really changed the complexion of our program.”
Justice and his fellow seniors on the team joined the program after a very talented and large senior class had graduated in 2011. Their first season with the program saw several growing pains as the then-newcomers tried to carve out a role in the program as first years.
“We improved a little bit each year,” Justice said. “There’s kind of this progression that we had as a team, and I think me getting this recognition is kind of a culmination of all that. We’re finally recognized for having good players.”
Clougher, however, will seek to continue the program’s winning tradition for the next two years. Much like in Justice’s first year, next season the Lords will be looking for several players to step in and fill the holes left by the Class of 2015.
The Lords are returning several key players, too, which may help ease the transition. “We know it’s going to be really tough next year,” Clougher said. “We’ve got a lot of players that we’ve lost but, as Sammy [Justice] said, we’ve got the likes of Jordan [Glassman ’17], we’ve got Josh Lee who’s also a sophomore, we’ve got Tony [Amolo ’17], who I’ve spent three years now with. Jeremiah [Barnes ’16] is coming back as captain. He’s a good player and he’s going to keep the winning ways going. He was there for the last tough season so he has that experience.”
The Lords certainly have their work cut out for them next season; graduating players such as Justice are leaving some big shoes to fill. However, it’s hard to count against them with such a group of young returning players, who also contributed greatly to the team’s 2014 success.