By Alexis Platt
Going into the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) tournament, men’s soccer players knew they were going to have to bring a lot of energy, playing within themselves and within their team’s style of play. Unfortunately, the defending champions ended their season earlier than planned due to hard, well-played double overtime, and a final penalty kick match-up with the Lynchburg Hornets.
Going into this game the Marlins wanted to have fun. “There’s no atmosphere like a playoff game, so having fun on the field is why we play,” junior keeper Connor Kirkham said.
Earlier in the season, the Marlins took on the Hornets and tied 0-0. For the semi-finals of the ODAC conference play, the two teams met again and went into double overtime. After two overtimes the game was determined by the best of 5 penalty kicks, and the Marlins had to walk away with a loss.
“When you lose, you don’t like penalty kicks but when you win, penalty kicks are OK. It was a tough way to go out but both teams battled, went back and forth and had scoring opportunities in two overtimes, but unfortunately we came out on the losing end,” Head Coach Mills said.
“It’s never easy to end your season so much earlier when the last two years have gone at least to championship games, but I think my team is using it to learn. I think it will ultimately help us for next year,” Kirkham said.
The Marlins weren’t surprised that they were going to have to battle this game out. “We prepared our penalty kicks for about two weeks, we didn’t have success but they did a great job training for them, and if we went out there again I would put the same guys on the line,” said Coach Mills.
The Marlins battled against an equally talented team. “I was never at any point disappointed in my players, I think that the work rate that they possessed was big,” said Coach Mills. “We came back in the game twice which proves a lot of heart for this team. Penalty kicks are never the best way to finish a year, but it’s all a part of the game,” Kirkham said.
The Marlins are losing strong seniors who have impacted this team tremendously. “At first I never really thought about losing our seniors. I was just shocked it hadn’t quite hit me yet, but when I walked up to Stephen Sawicki is when it really hit me. It’s not easy losing seniors at their last game, and it got to me,” said Kirkham.
“I am going to miss suffering and doing hard conditioning with the team. As crazy as that sounds, it’s a rare form of bonding when you are exhausted and you look over to your teammates and they are the only people in the world that can relate to your level of pain. It’s a weird concept but common suffering brings bonding,” senior Isaac Arrington said.
“It’s weird for this to be my last season playing soccer as a Marlin, I’ve dedicated copious hours to soccer here at Wesleyan, it is really strange to have class as my only obligation, I have learned so many life lessons from playing soccer here at Wesleyan and those stem from my decisions.” said Arrington.
“We lose some key players, so we don’t really have time to feel sorry for ourselves we really have to get out there and start recruiting,” Mills said.