Men’s Season Finale

Tristan Gavin

Two months ago, Whitman’s men’s soccer team traveled to California and beat a nationally ranked Redlands University team on their home field. In the next two days they lost in overtime to a solid Claremont-Mudd-Scripps College team and scraped out a win against highly competitive Pomona-Pitzer College.

“It was probably the most successful road trip we have had as a team in years. We were playing at a high level for how early in the season it was,” said junior Chris Perkins, who did not join the team on the trip because of a herniated disc.

Chris Perkins ’14 runs for a shot. Photos by Catie Bergman.

After that successful first road trip, the season has been a roller coaster for the team. Whitman entered Saturday’s season finale with a .500 winning percentage in the Northwest Conference. With the talent of their squad, however, they had expected to be at the top of the conference, not in the middle.

“We have a strong core of returners and a team with enough experience and talent to have competed with the best teams in our conference, but we just haven’t put it together,” said junior Junpei Tsuji.

The team has had a tumultuous time in conference play, failing to put together a consistent level of play throughout the season.

“We have beat some really good teams, but lost to some that we really should not have,” said junior Reid Shaw.

Junpei Tsuji ’14

The team entered its final game Saturday against rival Whitworth University with more momentum than they have achieved since the start of the season. In the previous two weekends the team had won three games and tied the fourth. Entering Saturday’s game, Whitworth had already clinched the NWC regular season title and the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

The match marked the final match for the team’s seniors and also capped off the season. Whitman’s overtime win on a header by sophomore Joe Virden gave the team a positive end to what has been a season of highs and lows. Whitman carried a 1-0 lead through most of the second half off of a goal by senior Andrew Clark before Whitworth tied it up late in the second half to send it to overtime. Virden’s goal came in the first period of extra time, giving the Missionaries their fourth win in five games to close out the season.

“The win [Saturday] gives us great momentum building on the success we have had this year and getting ready for next season,” said Perkins.

Shaw and Tsuji will join Perkins as team captains in 2013, and all three recognize that the team has a lot of work to do before then.

Junpei Tsuji ’14

“We have about eight months to regroup, and then we will be back to campus preparing for our final season. A lot can happen in eight months, and a really focused off-season would help us make the strides we need to make,” said Tsuji.

The 2013 captains recognize the difficulty of finding team chemistry with a group of over 40 players, many of whom have been playing for a developmental squad all season. Having a large senior class next year will be a good start, but much of the team’s success will come from practicing and playing together under the captains’ leadership in the off-season.

Perkins sees the team needing to develop “swagger”  by growing confident in their already proven abilities. The team is only graduating five seniors from the 2012 squad and has an enormous core of sophomores and juniors looking to step up into larger roles moving forward.

For the next couple of weeks, the team can celebrate a positive end to the year, but then it is back to the drawing board to look ahead to the 2013 season.