A year ago the SMCM Men’s soccer team was in the midst of a mediocre season. The Seahawks team had started off playing really well, but eventually hit a tough stretch in the schedule. They finished the year 9-9-2 overall and 3-5-1 in conference. Despite not maintaining a phenomenal record, the Men’s team went on a tear during the CAC tournament. Coming in as the sixth seed, the Seahawks upset Wesley (3-2) and York (1-0, OT) before falling to Salisbury in the championship game (2-0).
The high level of play has carried into the 2016 season, as the Seahawks have begun a red hot season. In fact, SMCM went undefeated through the first seven games of the season before falling to Swarthmore in a close 3-2 match. Senior captain and 2015 CAC player of the year, Nick Tait, believes that the team has been off to such a great start because, “we had a very strong group of first years that have made an immediate impact this season. In addition, us returning players gained great experience from our playoff run at the end of last season and came into this season ready to go.”
St. Mary’s has done just that this year. They have played hard in all of their games so far, which is evident based on how close each game has been. Besides their opening contest against Penn State Abington, which resulted in a 4-0 win, all but one game has been within a one-goal difference. It takes a tough mentality to be able to persevere in pressured game situations. Tait continues: “We treat every opponent with the same level of respect. We have to get ourselves up for every game as if it’s the CAC championship. If we go down early in a game, we make sure to stay positive with each other and that we play our style of soccer.”
In a home game against Randolph-Macon, SMCM did get down early to a 1-0 deficit. Right before the end of the first half, junior Sunny Chhatani scored a beautiful goal to tie up the game. St. Mary’s carried this momentum into the second half, where senior Kyle Reichard quickly scored the go ahead goal to make it 2-1 Seahawks. However the fanfare was short lived when Randolph-Macon countered just about a minute later with a goal of their own. Now tied 2-2, the Seahawks played stellar defense and kept the score even. Ten minutes later, Tait scored the eventual game winner and St. Mary’s closed out the game defensively to make it a 3-2 win.
St. Mary’s has been playing so well as of late due to the abundance of potential scorers on the team. As seen in the Randolph-Macon game, three different Seahawks scored in the win. These scores prove that the team is not reliant on one particular player to make every goal, they can have key contributions from numerous players. “We have a wide array of talented players on this team. Our game plan is to move to the ball quickly and effectively and build our attack starting from the back,” states Tait.
This will hopefully bode well down the stretch for St. Mary’s, as they can rely on almost any player to contribute offensively if needed. The team is led by captains Yonah Zeitz (senior, midfield), Max Dwyer (junior, defense), Zach Haussler (junior, goalie), Chhatani (junior, midfield), and Tait (senior, midfield), but is also greatly influenced by many other essential players on the roster. “We have more depth as a squad this year than my previous three years here” exclaimed Tait.
As Tait said, this depth is shown through younger players who are performing big roles in the sport. Freshman forward Anoi Hindle has been playing an important role as of late despite his lack of experience at the collegiate level. “It’s intimidating. Being so young and inexperienced as a college player is nerve wracking, but the guys have welcomed me in and out me on the track to succeed” Hindle believes.
In their CAC opener on September 24, 2016, St. Mary’s was on the road against Penn State Harrisburg. The game was once again very competitive and remained scoreless until late in the second half. Around the eighty-minute mark, freshman forward Khalid Balogun scored on a penalty kick to take the lead 1-0. Tait then tacked on another goal a few minutes later to give the Seahawks a 2-0 win.
St. Mary’s hit a slight bump in the road on October 1st. With the campus full of Hawktoberfest activities, Frostburg arrived and played SMCM in yet another highly contested match. While St. Mary’s had more shots than Frostburg (14 to 7), the Bobcats had the only one that counted, scoring early on in the first half. St. Mary’s had plenty of opportunities, but could not find the back of the net due to a stellar game by the Frostburg goalie.
Head Coach Alun Oliver is moving into his sixth season at the helm of St. Mary’s. Oliver played collegiate soccer at SMCM, graduated in 2004, and is a member of the St. Mary’s Hall of Fame (2010). Jamie Webster, Kevin, Seeger, and Herb Gainey serve as assistant coaches.