by Alexis Barton
The men’s soccer team put on several stellar performances during this year’s ODAC playoffs. Against Bridgewater, Hampden-Sydney and Washington & Lee the team showed off their skill on both ends of the field and defended their reputation as a fast-paced, competitive team. The Maroons starred in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final games where they met their final loss of the season against Washington & Lee.
In the quarterfinal game the fourth seed Maroons hosted the fifth seed Bridgewater Eagles. The game was expected to be close, as both teams have played well throughout the season and were competitive for their respective seeds. The first half of the game was driven by the Maroons defense as both teams remained scoreless. Senior goalkeeper Zach Behe held strong against the single shot from the Eagles in the first half, continuing his excellent record from the regular season. Behe, alongside defenders Tiernan Armstrong and Jordan Fiorani, set up their offense for success throughout both halves of play. The Maroons tested the Bridgewater goalkeeper regularly with 13 shots and 3 shots on goal. In the second half, the offense broke through as senior Liam Camilleri scored the lone goal of the game. The game proved to be one of high emotion, as seen by the post-goal excitement from the entire Maroons bench and the four yellow cards dished out throughout the game. The Maroons grabbed a 1-0 victory against the Eagles.
The team moved on to host the eighth seed Hampden-Sydney Tigers in the semifinal game. The Tigers were motivated coming into the game following their quarterfinal victory over first seed and the reigning ODAC champion University of Lynchburg. Tiger fans traveled to Salem and surely made some noise, but they were met with the undying enthusiasm of Roanoke fans. In the first half both teams appeared to be well-matched. Roanoke controlled the ball for nearly the entire half, but the Tigers were able to respond to Roanoke’s scoring attempts. There were a few close calls on injuries for the Maroons which were met with heckling from the Tigers bench and their fans. Luckily, the skill of the Roanoke team spoke for itself as the team entered the second half of play. The first goal of the game came from Harrison Kraus, which reenergized both the Roanoke bench and the students in Kerr Stadium. The Maroons continued to control play as Hampden-Sydney lost steam, which led to the second and final goal of the game from Nate Carey. The Maroons handily won 2-0 and were eager to head towards the championship game.
The Maroons traveled to nationally-ranked rival Washington & Lee for the championship game. The Maroons faced the Generals earlier in the season and were handed a 2-0 loss, but as the Washington & Lee commentators pointed out, these two teams regularly go back and forth with one another and are incredibly well-matched. Despite the Generals being ranked higher, the game was anticipated to be close. The Maroons did not let the prestige of their opponents scare them, as they played well throughout the first half. The game was scoreless through the first 45 minutes, with both teams having several scoring opportunities and both goalkeepers playing at their best. In the second half, the Generals came out with a bang and scored the opening goal in the 74th minute of play. The Maroons were able to quickly respond with Till Pfeling assisting Harrison Kraus in the Maroons’ first goal less than ten minutes later. The back and forth of scoring propelled play into the final minutes of the half. Both teams continued to have scoring opportunities, including an excellent drive from Nate Carey late in the game that fell just short. Unfortunately for the Maroons, the Generals were able to capitalize once more with just 40 seconds remaining in the game. The Generals held on to their 2-1 lead and won their seventh men’s soccer title.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Maroons have much to be proud of from this season. The team persevered through a stint of losses early in their season and built themselves up as a top ODAC competitor. Zach Behe, Dylan Berk, and Harrison Kraus were recognized for their playoff efforts on the ODAC All-Tournament team. Chris Jerrild and Dylan were named to the All-ODAC first team, Harrison Kraus was named to the second team, and Zach Behe was named to the third team. Kraus earned the additional honor of ODAC Rookie of the Year and Behe was named the ODAC/Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete.
Though the season is over for the Maroons, Roanoke students can look forward to the NCAA DIII Men’s Soccer Tournament being hosted on campus this year starting on December 1 with the semifinals.