The Lords soccer season came to a disappointing end against Tufts University on Nov. 20 with a 1-0 double-overtime loss. Kenyon (20-3; NCAC 8-1) faced Tufts (15-5-2; Medford, Mass.) after a 4-0 rout of Trinity University (22-2; San Antonio) the day before to cruise into the Elite Eight of the 2016 NCAA Division-III Men’s Soccer Tournament, held in Medford. Tufts would go on to win the national tournament championship on Dec. 3 with a 1-0 double-overtime victory over Calvin College (23-3; Grand Rapids, Mich.).
Against Trinity, Kenyon started aggressively, rattling off four shots in the first five minutes of the game. The first goal of the match, however, did not come until the 39th minute when Billy O’Neill ’18 redirected a shot by Greg McNeer ’19 past the 6-foot-9-inch Trinity goalkeeper.
The Lords dominated the second half, scoring three goals on the way to a 4-0 win. Woo Jeon ’18 opened the scoring in the 52nd minute when he gathered a rebound and blasted it back into the goal. Six minutes later, Jeon added his second tally of the match, easily pushing the ball into the back of an empty net. To finish the game off strong, McNeer added an insurance goal to the Lords tally in the 86th minute of the game.
With the victory over Trinity, the Lords claimed their 20th win of the season, a Kenyon men’s soccer record for the most wins in a season, previously set at 19 in 1990.
The Lords next faced the Tufts University Jumbos in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. With the wind blowing for the entirety of the match, clean chances were sparse for both squads. The first half only saw a handful of shot attempts by both teams, none of which found the back of the net.
The pace picked up in the second half when both teams were able to step up on offense. Jeon found the Lords’ best chance at a goal two minutes into the second half, but the Jumbos’ goalkeeper denied his shot. Josh Lee ’17 and Alberto Carmona ’19 had chances at scoring in the half, but both sailed wide of the net.
After 90 scoreless minutes, the Lords and the Jumbos headed into overtime. The first overtime was much the same: Both teams fired off a couple chances, but with neither team able to finish, the match headed to double overtime.
Tufts scored the game-winner in the 109th minute. The ball seemed to take a deflection off Lords goalkeeper Sam Clougher ’17 and slowly roll across the goal line, ending the Lords’ run in the NCAA tournament.
“Ultimately, it did not end how we hoped, but we had so many close wins and great moments to celebrate that it has been a season to be proud of for sure,” Clougher said.
The quarterfinal loss marked the end of a collegiate career for many Lords: seniors Clougher, Lee, Tony Amolo, Grant Cohen, Dalton Eudy, Gabe Freund, Jordan Glassman, Alex Pinkus and David Resnekov. They will leave their mark on Kenyon soccer as one of the most successful classes yet, with three straight North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) tournament championships, four Sweet 16 appearances and two Elite Eight appearances. They also boasted a record of 73-12-6 (0.835) over the past four years of play.
“I am the luckiest player to ever come through Kenyon,” Clougher said. “Mavec Field has been an incredible place to us over the years; it was fitting to have our last game there be the conference final.” Clougher went on to praise the dedicated Kenyon fans who traveled to watch the team compete against Trinity and Tufts. “To see how many people cared enough to drive to Boston and watch, seeing over 100 Kenyon supporters dressed in purple all the way in Boston, is a memory I won’t forget for a long, long while,” he said.
Next season, the Lords will look to continue the legacy of the class of 2017. Three juniors, among them NCAC Defensive Player of the Year Henry Myers, will return to the starting line-up along with sophomores Carmona and Bret Lowry. The first-year class also shows promise: John Penas ’20 earned playing time as a dependable midfielder off the bench, and Philippe Stengel ’20 emerged as a goalscorer late in the season, notching four goals in the last nine games, including the game-winner to claim the 2016 NCAC tournament championship.
For now, despite how the final game ended, the Lords have a historic season to remember with pride.
“Personally, it was not the senior season I imagined it to be,” Amolo said, “but I am glad I was able to help the team. I am happy about what we accomplished as a team, especially the senior class. I will miss every moment of it.”