Not all seasons will start off as planned; teams can’t get off to an undefeated start every year.
The 2012 Springfield College men’s soccer team can validate that, as in their first eight contests their record sat at a dismal 1-7. They were outscored 15-5 over the course of these eight games, and things weren’t looking good for first-year head coach Steffen Siebert.
In cases like this where a team is failing to catch any momentum, a dramatic win is sometimes all a team needs to help pull itself together.
A home matchup with the Endicott College Gulls in Sept. 2012 turned out to be Coach Siebert’s most memorable game at Springfield College.
Coming into the game, Endicott was 4-3-1 and looking to tack on another win against a struggling Springfield squad.
The Pride’s abysmal play in the first game was complemented with some nasty weather, which included some thunder and lightning. The game time temperature against Endicott on Sunday, Oct. 23rd sat in the low 60s, with clear skies.
“Sunshine, everything. Perfect occasion for a game,” Siebert explained.
The game kicked off at 1 p.m., and after a scoreless first half, the Pride found the back of the net first in the 53rd minute. Midfielder Danny Amato sent a one-timer into the right side of the goal, giving Springfield a lead for the time being. Sure enough, Endicott managed to rally back in the 77th minute.
“The same thing happened again as it did in the first eight games,” said Siebert.
“We get scored on by a corner kick, and everybody thinks everything started to happen all over again like it did in the first eight games.”
Despite Endicott’s late goal to tie the game up, the Gulls weren’t able to score again, and the game rolled along into overtime. “It was a tough game with both teams battling hard.
We kept playing our game of creating chances and putting pressure on them, so we knew we’d get one eventually,” then-sophomore Drew Sommer explained.
Springfield likely could have wrapped the game up in the first overtime, as Kevin Nowak was free on a breakaway and on a fast track towards the goal, until Endicott’s Kevin Gnecco broke up the play from behind.
The non-conference game couldn’t be decided in the first overtime, as neither team could capitalize on any chances. A second overtime would be needed.
When it comes to winning games in the second period of extra time, a certain brand of heroics is necessary. Joey LaBella and Drew Sommer must have had that clutch gene flowing through their bodies as they combined to score the game-winning goal in the 109th minute.
“In the second overtime, I managed to find Joey at the back post where he buried it.” Sommer said, “After that all I remember was tackling him. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Although it was LaBella who’s name appears in the stat sheet as the one who scored the game-winner, he credits it all to his teammate Sommer.
“Drew Sommer did all the work for our goal in the second overtime,” LaBella said. “It was because of him that we won. I was just in the right spot at the right time to tap the ball in and give us the win.”
Coach Siebert recalls the insanity that soon ensued after the shot went in.
“Everybody rushes the field, coaches, players. We’re all in a big huddle; we even had a couple of fans in there. Everything changed from that moment.”
Seeing that one-timer go into the net was almost a release of all the pent up stress, anger, and frustration that the Pride were feeling after their disappointing start to the season.
Before that game, Siebert’s coaching record at Springfield was 1-7. Since then, the team has gone 27-13-7. That’s over a .650 winning percentage.
“The Endicott game was a turning point in the season,” LaBella recalled, “After that, we went on an unreal winning streak.”
After starting 1-7 Springfield finished their season 8-10-2.
It’s hard to argue that the Endicott game didn’t help turn around the season. Coach Siebert explains that it was the right type of win at the right time.
“That feeling that everything goes against you, and then having that moment where everything just changes, and you’re just happy and the players are happy.”
Springfield would go on to lose in the NEWMAC Championship tournament against MIT later that season, but their early bounce from the tournament doesn’t take away from the magnitude of the Endicott victory.
“Looking back we’ve won some trophies and been in some finals, but as my first head coaching job at my dream school that’s kind of why it’s my most memorable moment.” Siebert said.
Some of the brightest moments in life can start off in the darkness. When a team is stuck in a 1-7 drought it may be hard to see a light at the end of a tunnel, but that’s exactly what Coach Siebert and the Pride were able to do after a miraculous victory against the Endicott Gulls.
Shawn McFarland can be reached at smcfarland2@spri-