The 2017 season was one to remember for the men’s soccer team. The men made Capital sports history by winning a game in the NCAA Division III Tournament, something no other past team has done. Though they did not actually win the conference, the Crusaders received an at-large bid to participate in the tournament.
The team capped off a great season with an even better playoff run, which started with their 2-0 defeat of Heidelberg University in the first round of the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) tournament. The team then beat John Carroll University, winning by way of penalty kicks after holding the Blue Streaks to a 1-1 score throughout regulation and overtime play. Capital finished second in the conference after losing to Otterbein University in the OAC Championship, but still received a bid to continue on to the Division III tournament.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t win the championship,” senior goalkeeper Justin Niswonger said, “but we did enough throughout the regular season to get us an at-large bid.”
Niswonger has played all four years at Capital and was named Goaltender of the Year for OAC men’s soccer. Though he admitted his 2016 statistics were better than his numbers this season, Niswonger said that the voting that earned him this award was also considerate of coaches’ opinions and how large of a contributing factor he was to the team.
The men’s team won their first tournament game, beating Dominican University in overtime by a final score of 2-1. This win was the first ever for Capital University men’s soccer, solidifying a place in Capital sports history for the 2017 team. Their next game was a 2-0 loss against the University of Chicago, ending the team’s postseason run.
Though it ended their historic season, this loss should not distract Capital from the accomplishment of the team.
“I’m extremely proud of the guys’ effort,” head coach Alan Yost said in an interview following the loss to University of Chicago.
Yost cited individual effort as one of the keys to the Crusader’s success throughout the season, but also admitted that it was the same element that helped the University of Chicago Maroons take the 2-0 win.
“It was going to take an individual moment of brilliance,” Yost said in the same interview, “… and Chicago found that moment before us. I think if we could’ve gotten on the board first, we could have walked out of here.”
Both Yost and Niswonger mentioned how proud they were of the team. Niswonger specifically mentioned the other three seniors, Dominic Zumpone, Cal Saunders, and Hunter Stiger. He added that out of 17 freshmen to enter the program, he and the other three seniors were the only ones that had played all four years. Overall, Niswonger reported that he was happy with how well the season went and excited to see the men’s soccer program keep growing. The team finished the season with an overall record of 13-8-2.
“It’s exciting, it’s bittersweet, because now I’m done,” Niswonger commented about the end of the season that sealed his soccer career at Capital, “… but at the same time, it was a fun way to end.”