College Soccer / Featured

After 31 years, Haverford College returns to NCAA tournament

Photo: Courtesy of Haverford Athletics

At 7:30pm tomorrow, under the lights of Arcadia University in Glenside, PA, the Haverford College men’s soccer team will do something it hasn’t done in long, long time: Play in the NCAA tournament.

Coming off a heartbreaking end to the 2010 season that saw them lose the Centennial Conference championship to Dickinson College on penalty kicks (3-2), Haverford rebounded from a slow start to sweep through the 2012 conference tournament and earn the program’s first NCAA bid in over 30 years.

With players from the 1976, 1977, and 1980 NCAA tournament teams returning to watch the current players lift the program back to it’s once-prominent state, Haverford shut out Dickinson and Swarthmore College—both strong enough to receive at-large NCAA bids—on their way to the school’s first Centennial Conference title.

“We probably wouldn’t have gotten an at-large bid (to the NCAA tournament) so we needed to win the Centennial,” said head coach Shane Rineer. “So to have (the alumni) back and to be the first team in 31 years to make it to the tournament, it’s a pretty cool feeling.”

Senior captain Matt Gorski echoed his coach’s sentiments, but said the team wasn’t satisfied with just making the tournament. “A big thing for us is being level-headed. We’re coming off a big high, making program history with that (Centennial Conference) championship. But for us it’s about getting right back to work, doing what we do.”

Fords meet NESCAC’s Wesleyan College

The Fords will face off against Wesleyan College of the New England Small College Athletic Conference. “They’re going to be a tough team, they’re going to battle us hard,” Gorski said. “We know they don’t score too many goals but they defend really well, so we’re expecting a tough, hard-fought game. I think they’ve only given up nine goals the entire year, so we know we are in for a fight.”

Coming into the year with sky-high expectations, Haverford found out the hard way that getting back to the conference championship game is no cakewalk. “I think when we started out 3-4, we had returned nine starters and I think we just thought it was going to come easy and we weren’t really working as hard as we could, or we didn’t understand our roles,” coach Rineer said. “We were playing like, ‘Hey, we are going to get our chance,’ but we weren’t really focusing in the final third. And it all clicked once we went to Franklin & Marshall and went on a five game winning streak.”

Mixing youth and experience

Haverford found a formula for success by topping a stout, veteran defense with a trio of talented freshmen. Sam Yarosh (7), Brady Seitz (5), and Colin Seitz (4) added to Gorski’s seven goals, offering the Fords a dynamic attack that will hope to test a stingy and experienced Wesleyan back line. Junior Ford Bohrmann came alive in the conference tournament, scoring the game-winners against both Dickinson and Swarthmore.

The defense is led by junior goalie Andriy Mshanetskyy—three shutouts in his last four games—and captain Adam Morollo.

Getting the swagger back

In recent years, Swarthmore, Dickinson, and powerhouse Messiah have surpassed Haverford to gain prominence on the national stage. But worse than that, the local community that used to pack the sidelines for soccer matches seemed to have lost interest in the Haverford program.

“When we brought back those old teams, they have pictures of Walton Field lined with thousands of fans, the community and the town,” Rineer said. “And we are just trying to bring that back, to bring a crowd out every game.”

The Fords are hoping to bring a big crowd to Arcadia tomorrow night. “I can guarantee the first 5-10 minutes of that game are gonna be lively,” coach Rineer said. “Both teams are going to have some chances to score, then I think after that the game is going to settle down.”

The comment highlights how Division-III soccer is a wonderful example of the beautiful game. The matches can turn from dogfights into free-flowing affairs (or vice versa) at any moment. And even players who have never been this deep into the post-season before know one thing: They want to go further.

“I don’t think anybody wants to have that 4:30-6:30 time slot (normal practice time) open next week, Morollo said. “For a lot of us, this is what we love doing and nobody wants this to end.”

Go out and watch Haverford take on Wesleyan Saturday night at 7:30pm. The game is preceded by fifth-ranked Stevens Institute of Technology against 23rd ranked Methodist (NC) University at 5pm. The winners face off Sunday at 5pm at Arcadia.

 

Full disclosure: David Poolman is a former Haverford College soccer player.

2 Comments

  1. forestforthetrees says:

    It’s Wesleyan University, not Wesleyan College

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