Assistant Sports Editor
For the third time in program history, The Springfield College men’s soccer team are NEWMAC champions.
However, the team’s path to championship glory almost came to an abrupt end in the semi-final game against Clark University. The game was tied at 2-2 going into overtime, but with 4:53 to go in the period, Clark committed a penalty deep in their own territory, giving Springfield a direct free kick.The cross came from junior midfielder Dan Murphy, the trajectory of the cross formed an arch, its destination ended up being the head of junior Cam Powell. Powell placed the shot out of the goalkeeper’s reach just under the crossbar. The Springfield sideline erupted in cheers as Powell ran down the sideline and took off his shirt in celebration.
“We have been working on where to target our runs to in the box all season on set pieces,” said Powell. “Dan Murphy played an incredible ball that I knew from the moment the kick was taken that I’d be able to get a piece of it. When I made contact and saw that it went in it was an unreal feeling. I didn’t know what to think because I was so overjoyed. I have never been in the position to score a game winner in overtime before.”
When Powell scored the goal he was not exactly sure how to react, so he remembered something that head coach Steffan Seibert said earlier in the season.
“Coach told us earlier in the season that the only time we were allowed to take our jersey off for a celebration was if we scored an overtime goal,” said Murphy. “So when I scored and I didn’t know how to celebrate I thought back to that and just went for it. I don’t regret it one bit, it was amazing.”
The team had a full week to prepare leading up to their game against Clark, but only a little over twenty-four hours to prepare for Wheaton in the championship game. However, a trait of a great team is being able to adapt to whatever is thrown at them.
“Against Wheaton we just played our game,” said sophomore Keon Haji. “We did not make any major changes. It’s the little adjustments ingame that get us on track. We were confident that we would perform well in the semi-finals, so we were ready for anything coming into the finals.”
The Pride proved that they indeed were ready. The team took an early 1-0 lead over the Lyons when a foul from Wheaton resulted in a penalty kick. Brad Deckel stepped up and drilled a shot into the back of the net to give the Pride a one-goal advantage with 26:48 to play in the first half.
The Lyons would soon even the score, but with 4:36 left in the first, Springfield regained its one-goal lead when Powell sent a throw into the box, which was initially cleared by Wheaton, but Powell got to the loose ball first and snuck the ball past the goalkeeper to make it 2-1, Pride, heading into the halftime break.
The two sides played evenly for a majority of the second half, but the Pride increased their lead when Murphy sent Curtis Bolduc wide on a run, and the junior capitalized as he launched a shot into the right side of the net with 9:32 to play in the contest, effectively sealing the victory.
The team’s two huge wins would not have been possible if it were not for the hard work and focus they put in throughout the week in preparation.
“We wanted to come into the tournament well-prepared,” said junior Tim Wood. “Our general philosophy was that the tournament won’t be won on the day of the game, it is going to be won in the days of practice beforehand.”
“The week leading up to Clark was probably the most physically demanding week of practice we had all year,” said Haji. “Not only were we working hard physically, but we were also matching that with tactical preparation.”
The game is played with the athletes on the field, but without a good coach, you cannot win, and the players on the team agree that head coach Steffan Seibert is great.
“Coach Seibert does an amazing job scouting opponents and matching their tendencies with our preparation,” said Haji. ”The amount of thought he puts into our team puts us over the top.”
The team has been fantastic all season, compiling an overall record of 18-1-1, one of the best records in school history. There are several things that contribute to their success, like talent and coaching, but there are some things that you don’t get from superb coaching and being athletically superior.
“We bring more than we each believe we have out of each other,” said Powell. “These are 30 brothers that I can go to for anything I need. These guys are my best friends, and for the rest of my life I will always have them.”
The Pride will now play the 2014 Division-III National Champion Tufts University on Saturday at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.
With the stakes being set even higher now that the team has made it to the national tournament, some teams might overthink the game plan, but the Pride are set on doing what they have been all season.
“We are preparing the same way we have all season,” said Powell. “We match up well with them and the tactics that they play by and in our eyes, they are just another roadblock in our path to achieve our goal of keeping this season going.”
Seibert is excited for the opportunity to play against such a historically successful team.
“We are excited to play an absolute national powerhouse,” said Seibert. “They were national champions two years ago. It is time to go to work and get ready for gametime.”