The John Carroll University men’s soccer team needed to win the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game against the Heidelberg University to advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Despite the 5-4 loss on Saturday, Nov. 8, the Blue Streaks hoped for an at-large bid to be a part of the NCAA Tournament. At 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 10, JCU received the news that its season had come to an end.
Prior to Saturday’s 7 p.m. match at Don Shula Stadium, the men’s soccer team boasted an impressive 14-game winning streak. Additionally they were one of the only teams in JCU history to go 9-0 in OAC play. This game marked the team’s fourth consecutive chance to win an OAC Championship match.
Unfortunately, it ended in a similar fashion to previous year –– a devastating loss.
The Student Princes had never won the trophy.
After a 2-1 loss to JCU during a regular season match in mid-October, Heidelberg was ready for revenge.
JCU junior Kevin Pachuta’s goal in the tenth minute of play off an assist from fellow junior Jimmy Mattina started the scoring. The tally would not go unanswered by Heidelberg. Towards the end of the first half, the Student Princes buried three goals within just five minutes to take a 3-1 lead.
Heidelberg added two more tallies early in the second half to make the score 5-1. Down by four with only 15 minutes remaining in the game, the Blue Streaks played with incredible heart to fall just short of bridging that gap.
Freshman midfielder Jacob Lombardo responded to Heidelberg’s fifth goal just 47 seconds later, burying a goal off an assist from fellow freshman Dalton Browsky in the 70th minute. The duo worked well together, as Browsky then scored JCU’s third goal during the 85th minute from a Lombardo assist.
Within three minutes, Mattina put a header goal into the net off of senior captain Brian Potocnik’s corner kick during the 88th minute.
Spirits were heavy as time ran out for JCU’s comeback.
“Soccer is a cruel game,” said head coach Hector Marinaro.
“When you’ve won 14 in a row, you know that eventually you are going to lose a game. Unfortunately for us, it happened at the most inopportune time,” he said. “I feel horrible for the players because they’ve had an incredible year.”
The loss to Heidelberg doesn’t take anything away from the notable progress the team made this season.
“The Case Western game [on Sept. 16] really was the turning point,” says Mattina. “That’s when we really started to believe and that’s when our amazing win streak started. We really worked hard to accomplish what we did. Although we fell short of our goal we still had an amazing season.”
“Our seniors were great leaders, and I can’t thank them enough for what they did,” he continued. “Overall, I’m proud of what we accomplished.”
The Blue Streaks finished the season 17-4 overall and 10-1 in the OAC.
The 17-win season was the best win total for the men’s soccer program since they matched that same 17-win total in 2003.