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The Maroons (12–5–3) kicked off the first round match of the NCAA Division III Championship with a blast at Mavec Field on the campus of Kenyon College in Gambier, OH.
Approaching the national tournament, third-year defender DJ Weis said, “we are approaching every game the same way but playing in tournament games is very different because it’s win or go home. There’s a palpable excitement and tension and I think subconsciously you bring out your best play and effort during tournament time.”
Saturday saw the South Siders dominate with a blowout 3–0 victory over the Thomas More College Saints (16–3–1). In the second round on Sunday, however, the team’s season came to an end during penalty kicks after two overtimes and grueling regulation play.
Despite the loss, the Maroons proved to be a huge contender this year and have big plans for next season’s NCAA play.
In both games, Chicago came out strong, dominating offensively. On Saturday, against the No. 9 seeded Saints, the Maroons led in shots on goal by a wide margin of 8–2. Just several minutes into the match, third-year midfielder Chris Mathis, and first-year forward Matthew Koh both scored. Chicago’s final score came off a Thomas More own goal in the 79th minute, and the team went on to win 3–0.
This is the seventh time in Chicago’s history that they have participated in the NCAA tournament. As well, this marks the fourth time the Maroons have advanced to the second round, where they faced the Kenyon College Lords (18–1–1).
“Going in I was expecting a challenge. Kenyon is known as a talented athletic team that has beaten plenty of good opponents over the years,” Weis said. “The high point [of the game] was the entire first half. We dominated possession and chances on goal and probably should have scored three times.”
Weis’s statement rings true in the box score. Chicago’s attack stormed the Lords in the early stages of the game, as the Maroons outshot the home team 9–4 through the first half. In the game’s 10th minute, the Kenyon goalkeeper, third-year Sam Clougher, attempted a goal kick that ended up striking Chicago’s third-year forward, Brenton Desai, who had remained in the box. Desai quickly gained control of the misfire and gave his squad a 1–0 lead by booting home his 12th goal of the season into what was basically an empty net.
The Lords came back with a vengeance, however, outshot UChicago 10–1 in the second half, and managed to know things up at one at the end of regulation. Since overtime remained scoreless due to the success of second-year goalkeeper Hill Bonin, the two teams then lined up for a penalty kick shootout to determine who would advance to the next stage of the national tournament.
It was a close call, but Kenyon concluded the shootout with a 4–2 lead over the South Siders.
Despite this loss, Weis reflected positively on this year’s NCAA play, comparing it to last year.
“It felt a lot different. I felt more experienced and much more in control of the game and my emotions this year. Experience certainly made a difference…I think if there’s one thing to change it’s to calm down in the second half and look to play through their pressure in order to wear them down. They started playing blatantly direct soccer and pressing high and we basically mirrored that style instead of playing our soccer,” Weis said.
Without a doubt, the Maroons had a great run this season with an overall record of 12–5–3, and a conference record of 3–3–1. Even looking at conference losses, the Maroons always fought to the end in overtime and double overtime.
The four fourth-years, midfielders Jorge Bilbao, Peter Boxley, goalkeeper David Cohen, and forward Parker Tinson have completed their college careers with an overall record on 41–21–12 and a 64 percent winning percentage. The team’s record has improved with every year that has passed for the Maroons, and the fact that they have reached the second round of postseason in their last two years attests to that fact.
Looking to next year, Weis notes that the momentum will continue.
“The big thing is to have more organized training in the gym and with the ball this offseason. The higher the level of training, especially strength training in my opinion, the more prepared we’ll be for spring season and have a better baseline for summer fitness,” he said.
There is much work to be done, but much to anticipate in the off-season and 2016 for the South Siders.