While Jake Miskin’s NEWMAC Championship winning penalty kick crossed the goal line and found the back of the net, the entire Springfield College men’s soccer team rushed the field.
Miskin’s kick gave Springfield its first NEWMAC Championship and berth into the NCAA Division III tournament since 1999. It was a moment that head coach Peter Haley will never forget.
“It was [as] emotional as you can get,” said Haley. “To win a game on penalty kicks, I don’t know if there’s a better feeling. Everyone just jumps and clears the bench area. It was just an awesome experience.”
That experience, as memorable as it was, will not be enough for the Pride this year however. Haley was at the helm during the 1999 season and saw his team fall in the first round at home against Norwich.
“We lost late in the game, and I’ll never forget it. One of their players slid in front of our fans and did something that wasn’t really nice and I’ll always remember that.”
Haley admits that his team seemed to just be happy to be there in the moment and playing in the NCAA tournament as the NEWMAC representative. This year’s squad has a different attitude as they prepare to take on Eastern Connecticut on Saturday at Amherst College.
“I think back then we were just happy to be there,” said Haley. “The difference this year is we don’t just want to be happy to be there. We want to win.”
“It’s not good to just want to be there because you risk playing to that kind of intensity, and I think this time we’re prepared to play.”
Junior captain David Chessen has enjoyed winning his first NEWMAC championship as a member of the Pride, but agrees with Haley that the team wants more.
“Our guys are really happy about NEWMACs and we’re just trying to keep it going and not be content,” said Chessen.
Although Springfield didn’t play Eastern Connecticut during the regular season, they have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The two played five similar opponents throughout the regular season.
Haley and his coaching staff are also aware of what to expect from the two times they have seen them play this year.
“We have seen them twice, they are pretty dynamic up front, they have a forward who is very good and they’re strong in the back, and we know the system they play.”
Haley and his team have kept practices a little lighter so far this week and it has kept the team loose, but focused.
“We mix it up, you can’t be intense all the time during training, especially when you have a week off,” said Haley. Springfield had 10 days off from the end of the regular season up until the NEWMAC championships.
“There’s been enjoyment this year. I wouldn’t call it fun, but there’s been enjoyable moments and moments of fun,” said Haley. “But the bottom line is, we want to play hard and win. When we step on the field, we’re ready to play and when we expect intensity, we get it.”
Corey Hanlon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org