Men’s Soccer awarded new life after loss

Christian Brewster Photo credit: Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh

Photo by Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh

Trinity Men’s Soccer fell last Saturday to Texas Lutheran University 2–0 in the semifinals of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Tournament. Then, nearly 48 hours after thinking their season was over, the Tigers received an at-large bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Men’s Soccer Championship, keeping their season alive.

Trinity hosted the SCAC tournament for the first time in eight years and entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed. It was the first time in recent history that Trinity has not been the No. 1 seed, according to head coach Paul McGinlay.

“For eight consecutive years, we’ve been the No. 1 seed and won the regular season championship and won the tournament, which we’re going into this weekend. So a loss [last] weekend against Austin College, that put us into the play-in game,” McGinlay said prior to the tournament.

Entering the tournament in a play-in game presents a challenge; in order to win the championship, the team must win three games, three days in a row. The odds of this are small, and according to McGinlay, it has never been accomplished in U.S. collegiate history at any level.

The men’s team won their first game against the University of Dallas 1–0 on Nov. 8. Sophomore Philip Duenez scored the game winning goal during minute 77. The victory allowed Trinity to advance to the semifinals, bringing them one step closer to winning the championship and automatically qualifying for the NCAA Championship. According to McGinlay, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament offers Trinity a chance to prove themselves after a disappointing season.

“It would be somewhat of a redemption of the season. 10–5–2 is not a record that would normally associate with our program. 17–1–2, 16–2–1, 17–0, that’s kinda where we’ve been. 10–5–2 is less than stellar, so if we were to get through this weekend it would be a redemption,” McGinlay said prior to the SCAC tournament.

On Nov. 9, Trinity lost to Texas Lutheran 2–0. The first goal was scored 80 minutes into the game and the second goal was scored with only a minute left on the clock. The loss knocked Trinity out of tournament play and the Tigers closed the season 11–6–2. According to McGinlay, ineffective offense was the underlying cause of the game’s outcome.

“To be honest, there was a lot of highlights in our performance in terms of the way that we possessed the ball and the way that we defended, but we were really let down by less than effective forward play and that led to few chances being created and shooting opportunities, and it just didn’t give us a great opportunity to win the game,” McGinlay said.

According to sophomore defender Armaan Islam, it was not any one particular thing that caused the sub-par season, but rather the culmination of many smaller factors.

“It’s not one clear and concise problem. It’s a bunch of problems coming together. We lost a lot of good seniors the year before, a lot of good leadership,” Islam said.

Another factor that may have contributed to the season’s outcomes is pre-season troubles.

“Our coach had a heart attack prior to the season, so pre-season was little bit shaky. Pre-season didn’t go as planned actually. We usually have soccer houses to stay in. For pre-season we had no soccer houses and had to work everything out on our own and stay at other teammates’ houses in San Antonio, make things work,” Islam said.

Despite the setbacks, McGinlay’s health issue did not prevent him from coaching.

“I did have a heart attack in April, and it’s a six-month recovery. So during the season, I’ve been in the recovery phase, but the doctors did release me to coach, and I don’t feel that I could do the same thing just sitting around. I’m happy, thrilled to be on the training field and at the games,” McGinlay said.

Despite a rocky season by Trinity Men’s Soccer standards and a disappointing loss in the SCAC Tournament semi-finals, the Tigers won an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

“We kinda backed into the tournament, but I know that we were capable of making a run. But you only make a run is by winning the next game, so really all we can focus on is the University of Texas-Dallas and that’s all really that we have any concerns about.” said McGinlay. “We have an admissions ticket so we have as much chance of winning the national championship as anyone else. If I remember rightly, the Washington Nationals [went] into their World Series and ended up winning the whole thing, and no one gave them a chance.”

According to sophomore midfielder Fraser Burns, the NCAA bid is the team’s second chance to make up for a frustrating season.

“It is obviously great that we have been given the chance for redemption. We are motivated to show what we are really made of and we can’t wait to get back out there this weekend,” Burns said.

After the SCAC Championship loss and a season with the most losses in the past 25 years, Trinity has been given a fighting chance in the NCAA Tournament. They play UT-Dallas at home on Nov. 16 at 3:30 p.m.

“We have survived somewhat of a heart attack in our program here, but we’ve recovered and we’re now in the NCAA Tournament, and that’s where we want to be on a yearly basis,” McGinlay said.