MISHAWAKA—The Men’s Soccer team started their season on Aug. 20. They won that match against Holy Cross 1-0 here at home. After that, the team took a trip to Lakeland, Fla. to play against Southeastern University and No. 7 St. Thomas University. They beat Southeastern 3-1 and lost to St. Thomas 3-0.
“I think the trip helped us in some many ways,” Team Captain Willian dos Santos said. “First, in the team bonding aspect, we got to know each other better. Not only on the field, but off the field, we were able to stay in a house. We were all together, spending time together, and cooking for each other. So, I think that helps a lot in bonding the team. We also played two very tough games down in Florida. It really prepared us for the rest of the season by playing good opponents.”
After returning to Bethel, the team had a four-game homestand in which they faced the No. 2 team in the nation: Central Methodist University. They would split the four-game homestand by first losing to Lourdes University, 4-3, and Central Methodist, 2-0, and beating both Trinity International University and Madonna University by a score of 3-0. The final two games of the homestand started a six-game winning streak in which they have only allowed a single goal in 550 minutes of action. The last two games of the winning streak were the start of the Pilots Crossroads League schedule. They faced St. Francis University in Fort Wayne, Ind., and cruised for a 3-0 win over the Cougars. In their second conference game they faced Indiana Wesleyan University, which was to decide who would take possession of first place in the conference. The match was the first game for the Pilots that went to overtime. The Pilots beat Indiana Wesleyan 2-1 in overtime with a Matheus Santiago brace.
“I think there are several things that have clicked into place,” senior leader, Franklin Joyce, said. “I think we have established a system of play that not only suits our personnel very well, but the guys are comfortable executing. It has allowed us to rotate personnel differently than in years past, while maintaining a high level of performance. But also, we have multiple players that are performing at the highest level that I have ever seen them perform."
Franklin Joyce, Willian dos Santos, and Andres Gonzalez Maza have earned both national and conference awards for their recent play. Joyce won NCCAA National Student-Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 13-19. This was in large part because he had not yet allowed a goal in the back of the net in 270 minutes. Dos Santos won NCAA National Student-Athlete of the week for the week of Sept. 20-26. He led a defense that only allowed twelve shots in two games, and he assisted on a goal against St. Francis. Lastly, Gonzalez Maza won Crossroads League Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 20-26. The midfielder scored two goals and assisted in another two goals during that week.
The Pilots have three home games left, all in the Crossroads League, and have another four on the road to conclude their conference schedule. They will start their post-season run with the Crossroads League tournament that will start on Nov. 6. They will also play in either the NCCAA National Championships (Nov. 15-20) or the NAIA National Championships (Nov. 18-Dec. 6).
“It’s my last dance,” dos Santos said. “So, the main goal is to be with that ring and that banner. We would love to win conference and win the playoffs and go to nationals. Last year, we lost nationals, and it was tough. One of our main goals is to win everything we can, and there are things we cannot control, but the things that we can control is our attitude, our work ethic, and our discipline.”
The Pilots took the field Saturday, Oct. 2, against Marian University and won 2-0. They will next take the field against the Goshen College Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9 here at Bethel. For more information about the Men’s Soccer team visit https://www.bupilots.com/sport/rv-mens-soccer.