By EMMA PRESBERG – CENTO WRITER
With only a week left before the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Tournament, Centre Men’s Soccer has proved that it is not going down without a fight. Despite having one of the most challenging schedules in the conference, and possibly the country, the team has continued to press on, working hard during every game of the season.
Despite a tough 2-1 loss to Millsaps College on the Sun., Oct. 26, the team has compiled a 4-1-2 record in conference play, and going 8-3-5 overall.
Even though they have faced quality opponents, the team has only given up 13 goals all season, with a 0.76 goals against average, which means that they are allowing less than a goal per game.
Coming into the season with a challenging schedule the Centre Colonels had three goals: be regular season conference champions, win the SAA conference tournament, and make it to the final four of NCAA tournament play. With such a tough schedule at the beginning, including a three-game stretch against 23-ranked Thomas More College Saints, 13-ranked Ohio Wesleyan University Battling Bishops, and second-ranked Kenyon College Lords, pre-season was all about getting experience.
“Experience is knowledge. And with knowledge you can learn how to manage emotion, referees, and tough situations. When you play a schedule like this, its just about getting ready for conference,” Head Coach Jeb Burch said.
First-year defender Jesse DiLuzio spoke on the intensity of the men’s soccer program.
“It is expected that you can ease into things, but then you’re playing top ranked teams in the country within the first week,” DiLuzio said.
The team used the challenging conference and scheduled non-conference games as a way to bond as a team and build resiliency. They faced tough opponents, questionable referee calls, and experienced a few unlucky bounces along they way.
“The more we can fail the better [off we will be]. You want to be able to fail and still win and that’s what our kids have been able to do. At the end of the day, without those set backs, without that adversity, its hard to get better,” Burch said.
This grinding schedule allowed Centre to broadcast its all around skill level along with its fantastic leadership and team chemistry.
“The seniors are great and they’re excellent leaders because they’re so good. If they tell you to do something you know its right and they can back it up,” first-year forward Noah Wesley-Chevalier said.
“I think we just have a great team. I think we have really great chemistry, and I think we have really great leadership,” Burch said.
This team’s leadership and chemistry is especially important with eight seniors graduating this year. However, the team has a strong foundation of returning players to continue to carry the program.
“We’re used to graduating good classes every year. But this program has always had another good class ready to take over. They’ve all achieved great things,” Burch said. “We’ll miss them like we miss all our classes, but there’s going to be another class ready to take it over and Centre is going to keep winning games.”
Senior midfielder Pavel Terselich was named SAA Player of the Week for games played between Oct. 6 and Oct. 12, he leads the Colonels with 50 shots on goal, five of which have found the back of the net, and in points with twelve.
While Centre’s defense seems to be its strong suit, the offense certainly has proven itself. With 275 shots all season, 147 in conference play, and 24 goals scored this season, the team is a force with which to be reckoned.
“We could beat every team four or five nothing if we just have the right mentality and confidence in front of goal,” DiLuzio said.
The Colonel’s talented and consistent defense has pulled the team through this season. Senior defender and co-captain Jeremy Carlson leads the defense, and was named SAA Defensive Player of the Week for games played between Oct. 13 and Oct. 19. He was recently honored with the SAA Defensive Player of the Week for the second time for games played through Nov. 2.
Carlson has been named to the All Great Lakes Region Team twice during his senior career and has been an All Conference performer for each season on the field.
The team’s defense, the solid back line, has one of the best records in the conference, only allowing three goals during conference games.
“I mean, these guys hardly make any mistakes,” senior forward and co-captain Cameron Miller said.
With Terselich and Carlson graduating, underclassmen players will have big shoes to fill but the team is up for the challenge.
Sophomore forward Christian Gateskill-Fuqua is second on the team in shots with 35 in total, two of which have resulted in goals. Gateskill-Fuqua is also second on the team in assists and points with three and nine respectively.
Junior Sean Dunn and sophomore Henry Lynch are key pieces in the stellar defense that has kept opposing teams away from senior goalkeeper Ohan Missirian-Dill, who has recorded every minute in goal this season.
The team also gained some valuable players in its first-year class, especially DiLuzio, Wesley-Chevalier, and forward John Herd.
“We’ve gotten good contributions from our first-years,” Burch said. “But, I don’t want to act like this is some first-year class that is better than another. They’re always good.”
Coming off a 5-1 victory on Senior Night against the Oglethorpe University Stormy Petrels, the Colonels are ready to take on the upcoming challenge of the SAA tournament.
The team will look to run the table in the conference tournament and avenge their lone conference loss to Millsaps College. The Majors were also the team that eliminated the Colonels from the 2013 SAA tournament.
The Southern Athletic Associationconference tournament will take place Nov. 7-9 at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. The Colonels will open the tournament against Sewanee University of the South who they played to a two overtime 1-1 tie earlier this year.