For the second time in four years, the players on the Spartan men’s soccer team can call themselves North Atlantic Conference champions. The top-seeded Spartans defeated the third-seeded Husson Eagles 2-1 in an exhilarating championship game on Saturday, Nov. 3.Both teams came onto the field strong, but the Spartans were the ones able to capitalize.
Just three minutes into the first half, freshman Chris Mulholland carried the ball down the right side of the field and then sent a spectacular pass to the center, where junior Matt Buhrke was waiting to place a perfect shot into the top right corner of the goal.
But the Eagles continued to pressure Castleton in an attempt to break the Spartans’ spirits. The only problem was that Mike Anthony, the junior Spartan keeper, would not give in.
He seemed determined to give his team a chance to secure a comfortable lead, knowing that at any minute the tides could turn.
The Spartans again broke through when the NAC Player of the Year, junior Ryan Hahn, headed the ball in after a scramble in front of the goal with 24:06 left in the first half.
Hahn impressed the fans not only by getting the ball into the net after a flurry of Spartan shots on goal were blocked, but then by doing a tremendous cartwheel flip in celebration.
That may have been the moment when the Eagles knew they had to do everything they possibly could to get back within one goal of the Spartans.
“They had nothing to lose being down two nil, so they gambled by putting more players forward. This was an expected tactic, but our guys hung tough as they have all season,” said head coach John Werner.
Even though the Spartans did hang tough, they could not hold off the Eagles’ attack and get away unscathed.
The Eagles finally broke through and scored with 7:01 left to play in the first half when junior Jeffery Truchon tapped in the loose ball after an impressive block by Anthony.
During the second half, both teams had a great desire to score, but they were unable to do so because of strong defensive play.
After the game, the tournament awards and the trophy were handed out.
“Tournament MVP went to Ryan Hahn and All-Tournament Team selections were Nick Bellizzi, Mike Anthony, Chris Mulholland, and Matt Buhrke,” said Werner.
NCAA Division III Tournament Game
After their win over the Husson Eagles, the Spartan men’s soccer team was invited to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III opening round against the New Jersey City Gothic Knights. The Spartans fought valiantly, but in the end they didn’t have enough to overcome the Knights. The Spartans fell to the Knights 2-0 late Saturday night.
The Spartans attempted to take an early lead with a head shot by junior Ryan Hahn, but it was denied by the Knights’ freshman goalie, Andre Viola.
That blocked shot seemed to set the tempo and momentum of the game in favor of the Knights.
“That [goal] could have made a huge difference as goals change games,” said Werner.
With 15:00 left in the first half, the Knights’ Jonathan Bilbao, a junior, broke into the center of the box and scored on a header perfectly aimed at the left post.
The second half continued on much like the first half with the Knights dominating the offensive side of the game, outshooting the Spartans 12-6.
The game seemed to slip away from the Spartans when Bilbao netted another goal off a blocked shot by junior Edison Bilbao just 15:00 into the second half.
The Spartans did unleash some offensive fire later in the second half, but both of the opportunities were quickly stopped with leaping saves by Viola.
With the loss, the Spartans finished the season with a record of 13-8-1 and high hopes for next year. The team will be losing just two seniors, Ben Hahn and Bennett Laderoute.
Werner’s final thoughts on the season were aimed at all the Spartan fans that traveled to New Jersey.
“We were very appreciative of the Castleton students, Director of Athletics Deanna Tyson and President Wolk, as well as many of the players’ parents for making the trip to [New Jersey] to support us.