At the start of Thanksgiving break, the Kenyon men’s soccer team entered the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III soccer tournament and beat Washington and Lee University (WLU) (Va.) in its first match 3-1 before falling to Williams College (Mass.) 1-0 in the Elite Eight. Although their final game was disappointing, the Owls had an amazing season, scoring the third most goals in program history and reaching the fourth round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.
On Nov. 19, the Owls faced off against the WLU Tridents in Gambier with more than 250 fans in attendance despite it being the first day of Thanksgiving break. The two teams were evenly matched in the first half; despite both teams taking a combined 13 shots, neither team could break the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes.
The second half was a different story, as the Owls scored less than two minutes in. After conceding a foul in a dangerous position on the edge of its box, Kenyon launched a counterattack through a clearance by Matt Nguyen ’26. Sebastian Gaese ’23 was first to the bouncing ball and played a clinical one-two with Sam Carson ’23. Running toward goal, Gaese selflessly found Gerardo Martinez ’25, who collected the ball and curled his shot into the top right corner. It was a resounding goal for the Owls, who were visibly ecstatic as they ran to celebrate with Martinez. Four minutes later, Kenyon struck again on the counterattack to make it 2-0. Luke Muther ’23 cleared away another chance for the Tridents and found Gaese at midfield. Gaese chipped the ball over to Carson, whose speed was too much to handle for the WLU defenders. One-on-one with the keeper, Carson calmly passed the ball into the bottom left corner to double Kenyon’s lead.
The Tridents pressed heavily after Kenyon’s second goal and halved the deficit in the 56th minute. In a nice team move, a WLU attacker dribbled past the Kenyon defense and passed to his teammate across the face of the goal, who scored his team’s only goal of the game. The Tridents continued to attack fervently, but the Owls’ defense held strong — keeper Jack Pedreschi ’25 made three saves — and Kenyon finally put the game away in the 76th minute thanks to midfielder Isaac Cortez ’26. Cortez received a pass in the Tridents’ half and played a beautiful ball to Atli Hrafnkelsson ’23 on the left wing. Hrafnkelsson ran into the box and returned the favor to Cortez, who scored the final goal of the game to make it 3-1. After that, Kenyon’s defense remained stout and the Owls saw the game out to advance to the Elite Eight — for the third time under Head Coach Chris Brown’s 18-year tenure.
The next day, the Owls faced off against the Williams Ephs, fielding an unchanged starting 11 from the last game. Much like the game against WLU, the first half was a cagey affair. Both teams took only three shots each, and only one of the six was on target. The shot on goal came from a Williams set piece with only 40 seconds left in the half, when Pedreschi made a spectacular reflex save from close range off of a Williams player’s header to keep it 0-0.
The second half was more of the same, as neither team could find a way through. Kenyon’s best chance of the match came in the 51st minute, when Scott Upton ’23 and Martinez connected on a quick one-two that put Upton through on goal. Upton’s left-footed shot beat the Williams keeper and surely looked to be a goal, but an Ephs defender cleared the ball off the line to keep the game tied. In the 78th minute, Kenyon did manage to put the ball in the back of the net, but it was eventually disallowed due to offside. Max Thesing ’24 crossed the ball beautifully to the back post, where the Williams goalkeeper attempted to catch the floating cross. But the keeper dropped the ball straight into the path of Eamon Dujakovich ’25, who volleyed the ball in with an open net. However, the referee judged Gaese, who jumped up with the keeper to contest for the cross, to be offside — a questionable call to the home fans. Ultimately, it was Williams who finally scored with eight minutes to play. An Ephs defender headed the ball into the 18-yard box, and as the ball bounced toward goal, a Williams attacker beat Nguyen and poked the ball past Pedreschi, scoring the only goal of the match. It was only Williams’ 24th goal of the season — less than a third of Kenyon’s 76 goals.
Down but not out, Kenyon sent wave after wave of attack. But Williams, which has conceded only 10 goals all season long, held strong.In the 84th minute, Aidan Burns ’24 sent a big throw-in toward the Ephs penalty box, which was flicked on by Gaese and reached Upton all alone at the back post. Upton tried to curl his shot across goal, but his shot appeared to be blocked by the outstretched hand of a Williams defender. To the Owls’ astonishment, the referee did not call a penalty and instead let play continue. The Owls were short-handed on defense due to their prioritized offensive pressure, and the Ephs almost finished the game off in the 86th minute, but Pedreschi made a magnificent save to keep Kenyon alive. The Ephs had no qualms about time-wasting, as is tradition in soccer, and spent much of the final four minutes holding the ball in Kenyon’s left corner.
With just a minute and a half to play, Alem Duratovic ’25 beat his defender and was dribbling toward the Williams goal when he was tackled from behind. Again, the referee refused to call for a free kick. Unfortunately, the Owls could not conjure up a last-minute goal, and as the clock ran out, the Kenyon players sank to their knees, a tough ending to an amazing season.
In an email to the Collegian, Carson reflected on the team’s journey throughout the season. “While it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, I think there was so much to be proud of this season,” he said. “We defended extremely well all year, scored a ton of goals and did it all with a smile on our faces.”
In his last season with the Owls, Carson scored eight goals and notched two assists across 22 games, making him the fourth-highest scorer on the team. Due in part to their collective goal-scoring prowess, the Owls soared to No. 3 in the country over the course of the season and went undefeated during the regular season. Carson is sure he will look back on his time with the Kenyon men’s soccer team fondly. “I am so grateful for my time playing at Kenyon,” he said. “I know I speak for all of the graduating class when I say that any success they have in the future will feel like our own success as well.”