One appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament is impressive, two could be legendary. The men’s soccer program on campus is well on their way to getting there. Led by a number of returning upperclassmen, the team is looking to clinch the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) title and move on to the next level.
The 2017 season saw the team finish second in the OAC and receive an at-large bid to continue on to the Division III tournament. After beating Dominican University from River Forest, Illinois, in the first round of play, the Crusaders were finally defeated by the University of Chicago. The team finished the season with a record of 13-8-2; however, this incredible finish has not distracted returning athletes from their goals this season.
“It’s so easy to accomplish the success we had last year and become complacent, thinking you’ve done enough,” said head coach Alan Yost. “Complacency is natural, but I think it’s a testimony to our guys to use it as motivation.”
Yost, who is in his seventh year as the head coach of the men’s team, said that in addition to avoiding complacency, the fact that University of Chicago was indeed a beatable team motivates his athletes to repeat the success of 2017 and take it even further.
“We felt like [we] could have gotten a result against University of Chicago,” Yost said. “So I think that was a motivating factor that … we are at a national level.”
Senior Chewy Gordon agrees, saying that the simple fact that the team was capable of making it as far as they did was a healthy source of motivation.
“What was most motivating for us was the fact that we did make it … we all thought we were good enough to make it to the NCAA tournament and knew we belonged there,” Gordon said. “We know how hard it is to get to that spot.”
Yost spoke highly of Gordon, saying that he is having “a fantastic year.” In addition to Gordon, Yost also praises the efforts of seniors Daniel Bundschuh and Luke Morais, as well as juniors Jamie Robson and Greg Knox. Knox recently went down in Capital history, setting the school record for assists in a single season as he notched his twelfth assist of 2018 during the Crusaders’ Oct. 17 win over Muskingum University.
Yost credits his athletes with the entirety of conveying this championship mentality to those first-year players who do not have the experience of tournament play like so many of the upperclassmen.
“It’s not my team, it’s the players’ team. They are responsible for upholding the expectations and standards, they set the tone … I can’t play for the guys so having a group of leaders in the upperclassmen and guys that have experienced what it takes to get to the NCAA tournament … I can only provide a culture and an atmosphere and explain to them how to get there.”
The OAC is extremely competitive on a national level, and Yost says that he believes this has done a good job of preparing Capital for tournament competition. Ohio Northern University and John Carroll University are perennial soccer powerhouses that are hovering over Capital at both the conference and regional levels.
Capital recently secured a big win over Ohio Northern, putting the OAC title one step closer. Of the goals scored in the Crusaders’ 6-0 rout of the Polar Bears on Oct. 20, three belonged to Gordon. As the team nears the postseason, Yost said the focus needs to be internal, centered on themselves rather than their increasingly difficult competition.
“If you focus on yourself rather than the opponent, you will have far more chance of succeeding, not only on the field … but just the mental message that (I give) the guys,” Yost said. Men’s soccer has already had a season full of massive accomplishments, but their season is far from over. The last regular season game takes place at home on Oct. 27, in which the Crusaders will face off against the Otterbein Cardinals, traditional rivals and last year’s OAC champions. From there, the postseason awaits and with it comes the opportunity to reach and surpass last season’s success.