[By Beckie Reid]
The men’s soccer team fell to the No. 5 Ohio Northern Polar Bears in Ada, Ohio last Sunday by a final score of 2-0 in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament championship.
Déjà vu kicked in as the Blue Streaks headed onto the field for their second OAC championship match in as many years. Last year, the Blue and Gold lost to the Polar Bears by a score of 5-0.
The beginning of the season was rough, as they lost four in a row in the first few weeks of September, but that might have been what they needed.
Then the team did a 180: they went on an eight-game winning streak.
The first 37 minutes of the championship game was a defensive battle, leaving both teams scoreless.
Ohio Northern kept the Blue Streaks on an even playing field until the last 10 minutes of the game. The first goal was scored by senior midfielder Chris Matejka on a bicycle kick in the 38th minute. The ball was in the air when Matejka connected to the lower right corner of the goal.
John Carroll was issued a couple of yellow cards, which set them back mentally. ONU’s second goal came from their leading scorer, freshman Keegan Ross, no less than one minute later, assisted by Nate Bascom.
Overall, the team outscored their opponents (15-14), although Ohio Northern (20-2) won its third league tournament crown. In the last five years, they came in fourth place. The team has an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Senior goalkeeper Carl Contrascier made eight saves in comparison to Ohio Northern’s three.
“As disappointing [as] it is to lose in the conference championship game for the second year in a row, we are extremely proud of how we finished the season,” said JCU head coach Hector Marinaro. “Unfortunately, right now we are in the same conference as one of the top teams in the country. In our last 13 games we only lost twice, and they were both to ONU, which is ranked fifth in the country.”
Despite losing seven seniors (Carl Contrascier, Ion Coada, Thor Eriksen, Jeff Demarchi, Geoff Bloom, Wycliffe Odhiambo and Jerry Rubino), JCU still has a lot of young talent on the roster.
Returning for the Blue Streaks next year is sophomore Brian Potocnik. Potocnik led the team in points (17) and assists (9) along with four goals of his own, earning first team All-OAC honors by the end of the season. Potocnik is the first JCU player since Jared Huelsman in 1997 and 1998 to receive All-OAC honors during his first two years in the program. “[We] had high expectations of winning an OAC title and making the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, we fell short,” said Potocnik. “However, with such a young team, this year was great for all of the younger guys to gain experience and learn what it takes … so next year we can accomplish our goals.”
Also receiving honors were Boban Cancar, Eriksen, Contrascier and Trezciak as second team All-OAC selections, and freshman Jimmy Matina was named honorable mention.
Contrascier allowed only 20 goals this season with 63 saves. This dominant goalkeeper was named second team All-OAC in 2011 and recorded five shutouts in 2012.
“As we look forward to 2013, I am extremely excited about our team. We only lose two starters to graduation, and we bring back a wealth of talent,” said Marinaro. “The program has grown tremendously, as we are two to three deep at every position going into next season. We look forward to starting our preseason early with an international trip to Canada in early August before returning for the start of training camp. We expect to see strong competition at all the starting positions, so we expect to be challenging for the OAC regular season and playoff titles in 2013.”