By now, our lockers have been tidied, our boots are gathering dust, and our preparations are for Christmas festivities, not upcoming games. The season is over. And what a season it was.
It’s always strange when the frantic events of the soccer calendar’s culmination suddenly cease. The constant matches, trainings and traveling simply stop. All that is left to do is reflect. In previous years, reflection has brought upon a certain bitterness and regret. Not this year.
Sure, we thought we deserved more from our final game, outshooting and outplaying our opponents in a 1-0 defeat. But there is no shame in losing to a talented Madison side in the NCAA tournament. We had made it to the big dance, and boogied til our feet hurt. We signed off 2013 with swagger – a year that will go down as a famous one in Milwaukee soccer history.
Making the national tournament was one of several goals that we successfully met this fall. It came as a consequence of the biggest: winning the Horizon League Championship.
The weekend we won was filled with as much drama and controversy as our great sport can muster. Thanks to tornados and disqualifications, delays and relocations, we were forced to play the semi-final and final on consecutive days. We handled every challenge like champions, and after a couple of 2-0 wins that’s exactly what we were. On the Sunday evening, we were crowned, in front of few fans and zero functioning cameras. What we had was each other, the team and staff who had operated together so fluently all fall. Each other, and a big old trophy. The gale force Chicago winds carried our glory chants away into the night air. “Campeones, Campeones, Olé, Olé, Olé”
Our other achievements, both collectively and individually were plentiful.
Playing attractive soccer virtually all fall, we finished with a 15-3-2 record, the most victories in a season for the program for a decade.
Four players earned all-tournament honors - MVP and two-time goalscorer Andrew Stone, Luke Goodnetter, Aaron Cranfill and myself.
These came on top of the four recipients of all-conference honors.
Freshmen Liam Anderson and Junior Juarez, as well as Rami Younes enjoyed outstanding beginnings to life in Milwaukee. Bright futures lie ahead for Beau Laufer and Kostas Kotselas too.
Declan Rodriguez, selfless and underappreciated all year, was fantastic throughout the campaign.
Robbie Boyd leaves after lifting the Horizon League trophy. His captaincy responsibilities are passed over to Luke Goodnetter and Richard Johnson, who I look forward to raising more silverware with in the future.
The competition for the number one goalkeeper position will heat up in 2014. Liam shall be pushed by Agustin Rey, John Stahr and freshly eligible, Ryan Onwukwe.
Next year, Kyle Neumann, Aaron Horvat, and Patrick Ruhland can build on their contributions so far at UWM. Zach Stevenson and Dustin Ashley will come back from redshirt seasons to improve us, too. Likewise the strong class of incoming guys will help fill the void left by the seniors.
We all wish one of those seniors, Andrew Stone, the very best of luck in his pursuit of a post-college soccer career. Hopefully he extends the program’s braggability into the New Year.
His fellow departing defenders, Cranfill and Austin Toth, walk through the exit door alongside dedicated four year servants Boyd, James Ashcroft, Luke Davey, Riley Weiner, and Kevin Ferron. The group can all graduate as champions, crying champagne tears.
I’ve won a few honors myself this year. Followers of Milwaukee soccer must be sick of hearing about me. In truth, though I am very proud of the accolades that have come my way, I’m sick of seeing my picture too. But every team member has the award I coveted most. The one that sits in pride of place on my dresser, like I’m sure it does in all our respective bedrooms. On the prestigious glass plaque are three words that cheer me up each morning when I awaken to a day without soccer. It reads: Horizon League Champion.
That’s us. Merry Christmas!
Over and out.