By Molly Pennington
Elm Staff Writer
On Friday, Dec. 1, Washington College men’s soccer traveled to Salem, Va. to face off against the St. Olaf Oles. This game de- termined who would go to the National Collegiate Athletics Association Division III Men’s Soccer National Final.
Many fans traveled to Salem, but those who did not make the drive gathered in the Goose Nest in Hodson Hall to watch the game live with food and friends.
Both teams came out determined to win and seemed evenly matched until the nine minute mark. Senior midfielder Harrison Malone opened things up with his first shot of the game, saved by the Oles goalkeeper.
The resulting corner kick for the Shore- men led to two more shots, another from Malone and one from junior defender Sebastien Linares. This would be Linares’ fourth and final goal of the season.
The Oles were not ready to give up any goals and looked for one of their own, taking three shots within the following eight minutes. Freshman Shepherd Koffie attempted to answer back, but was repre- manded with with the game’s inagural yel- low card.
At the 20 minute mark, the Oles took another shot on goal that senior goalkeep- er Anthony Pinto could not save. The score turned to 0-1, a nerve-wracking moment for the Shoremen.
“I thought that we played very well in the opening stages of the game. Obviously you never want to concede, but you have to give credit to St. Olaf who took their chances and executed really well on the offensive end,” junior midfielder Dominic Miller said. “While their first goal obvi- ously presented an obstacle for us, we still felt confident in our ability to get back in the game.”
The Shoremen took two more shots before they needed to focus on their de- fense. For the remainder of the half, the Oles’ offense dominated the field. They took seven more shots on the Shoremen, but they protected the goal and kept the score steady.
Immediately into the half, the Shoremen were focused once again. It took less than 10 minutes for senior midfielder Ben Strine to find the back of the net, bringing the score to 1-1. This moment was huge for WC, raising the confidence of the team and the fans watching.
The Oles quickly regained their hold on the field and kept the ball close to the Shoremen’s end. Yet another shot was tak- en by the Oles just two minutes after the goal and they went on to take two more before a brutal corner kick.
A corner and a fast goal from the Oles brought the score to 1-2. This came at the 73 minute mark, creating a possibility for recovery.
This hope was stomped out six minutes later with another Oles goal. A 1-3 score with 12 minutes left in the game did not look good for the Shoremen, but that did not stop them from trying.
After a yellow card on the Oles, senior defender Alex Coster took a penalty shot that could have started a comeback, but it was out left. The Oles took a shot in the last few minutes of the game that hit the post, another scary moment for the Shoremen.
The game ended with the 1-3 score. As the Oles celebrated their victory and their move to the final game, the Shoremen left the field with mixed feelings. “I think everybody feels bitter that welost when we were so close to our goal, but it was still a great feeling to make the Final Four and go further than any team in school history. A lot of credit goes to St. Olaf, who are deserving National Cham- pions.” Miller said. “We obviously wish we could’ve been in their position, but we are incredibly proud of what we achieved this year, and we are all determined to get even better in 2024.”
St. Olaf played against the Amherst College Mammoths on Sunday, defeating them 2-1.
This marked the bittersweet end of the 2023 soccer season. WC soccer has never progressed this far into the NCAA tour- nament before, a historic moment for the Shoremen. Their record for the year is 14- 3-6.
“This was one of the most unique and special teams that I have been on. Every- body on our team was fully committed to winning, even if it came with sacrifices of playing time or personal achievement. This togetherness pushed us on through- out the season, even when we played really strong opponents or didn’t play up to our standards,” Miller said.”
Photo Courtesy of WC Athletics
Photo Caption: Senior midfielder Ben Strine scored the one and only goal of the game ending the season with 56 shots and 1,474 minutes played.