Men’s soccer finishes impressive season in NCAA tournament

Alex Hall
Journal Staff

The Suffolk men’s soccer season came to an anti-climactic conclusion this Nov. 13, losing 8-0 in their first ever NCAA tournament appearance to Williams College.

Williams, a nationally-ranked squad, scored four times in both the first and second half, beginning their scoring spree just four minutes into the game on a through ball to Williams’ player Charlie Romero.

“They had a different intensity and level of play,” said Head Coach Andrius Zeikus. The goals came in bunches during the second half, with Williams scoring three of their four goals of the half in the 62nd, 65th and 66th minutes. The Rams were outmatched in this contest, plain and simple.

This one game, however, does not reflect the team’s season as a whole. The team played so well in the second half of the season, and have nothing to hang their heads about.

After losing to Salve Regina on September 16, the Rams would go on a 6-4-1 run, which included a big comeback victory against rival Emerson College. “They took us down last year, so there was double the excitement for the [regular season] game this year,” said Zeikus.

This run also included a selection of overtime contests, two of which went into double overtime.  “The overtime games were a positive emotional boost,” said Zeikus. “We proved we can come back from being a goal down and close when it matters.”

The Rams’ six wins during this span allowed them to qualify for postseason play, and they subsequently found themselves matched up against Emerson in the first round of tournament play. It would be a close game throughout, with 31 shots being taken between both the Rams and the Lions, but only one of these shots would find the back of the net. The goal would come off the foot of Suffolk senior Luis Flores in the 16th minute, and would prove to be the goal that would lead the Rams into the second round of play. This was a feat that even Zeikus admitted was “very pleasing” for the team.

After disposing of the conference rival, the Rams would go on to upset higher-ranked Lasell and Albertus Magnus, and in the process captured the GNAC title. “It helped being the underdog, it gave the players more desire and more focus,” Zeikus explained.

Overall, the 2010 men’s soccer season is one that will not be forgotten. They surprised many of their conference rivals, as well as their non-conference foes, with impressive team chemistry and excellent play in goal from keeper Matt Esposito, who was named GNAC Player of the Week not long ago. “He has a good confidence in his play,” said Zeikus, who was impressed by the Connecticut native’s first season playing college-level soccer. Esposito is only one of several underclassmen on this young Rams team, which leads one to think that they will be improving on this historic season come next fall.

Considering the young age of this team overall, there’s certainly reason to think the Rams have a reasonable chance of retaining their GNAC title next season. Coach Zeikus, though, is well aware that this will be no easy task. “I expect to work twice as hard because we’re champions,” he explained. “It’s going to be a lot more difficult to repeat.”

The Rams have set high expectations for 2011 and only time will tell if they will be up to the task of defending their title.