By Pat O’Shea, Contributing Writer
Drake’s lyrics blast from the speakers of Historic Walton Field on a damp Saturday afternoon. The sun has not broken through the clouds in days, but the future of the Haverford men’s soccer program could not be brighter.
The Fords are seeking back-to-back Centennial Conference titles for the first time in program history. Leading the way are ten members of the team—Sam Miller, Chris Gibson, Gabe Oppler, Will Corkery, Tejan Walcott, Mason Bracker, Matthew Clausen, Maclyn Willigan, Jaimon Olmstead and John Kerber—that have all played a role in the Fords’ rise to prominence.
The senior class has been a part of two regular season conference titles (2013, 2015) and the 2015 conference championship campaign. Senior Co-Captain Maclyn Willigan says the team’s goals for this year are to be “Centennial Conference Champions again… After that, being able to seed highly enough to host NCAA games on Walton would be huge for the program.”
Willigan is not far off when he says that home-field advantage would benefit the Fords. Since the beginning of last season, the Fords have lost just two games at home—both in overtime and both to non-conference opponents. Including their win against Gettysburg this past Saturday, Haverford has now won 14 straight games against Conference opponents in the regular season at Walton Field. Senior goalkeeper John Kerber attributes this winning streak to the fact that “taking every week in isolation and focusing on going 2-0 [each week] can build on itself over time. Nobody talks about the streak because we’re all focused on the smaller tasks at hand.”
Coach Shane Rineer and the senior class seem to have a particularly special relationship. Maclyn Willigan touches on this relationship and explains he “wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s been especially meaningful to us because we were [Rineer’s] first full recruiting class, and we’ve seen him grow over the years into a real mentor.” The seniors are now 47-17- 4 over the course of their careers and have a chance to pick up win number 50 for their careers in the coming weeks. When asked about having their 50th win in sight, Willigan said “winning 50 games as a class is definitely a huge accomplishment, and will certainly be something to look forward to. None of the work we put in is easy, and it’s nice when it pays off long-term. This senior class is a special group, and I couldn’t be happier with the way our four years have panned out in the grand scheme.”
This team has done more than just win games. They have dominated the conference and put Haverford College on the map for men’s soccer. While doing this, their seniors have climbed the all-time ranks in many categories of the program’s record book:
- Matthew Clausen ranks 14th all-time with 0.73 Shots on Goal per game in a shortened career (did not play in 2015).
- Will Corkery ranks 12th in program history with eight game-winning goals, tied for second all-time with three made penalty kicks. Corkery was also named to the First-Team D3Soccer.com All-American team in 2015, as well as being named the 2015 Centennial Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player.
- Goalkeeper Sam Miller is currently tied for first place with 39 career wins in net, second place in goals against average (0.96), and eighth in program history with 213 saves.
- Tejan Walcott ranks third in men’s soccer history with 69 shots on goal and fifth in program history with 1.03 shots on goal per game.
Gabe Oppler believes the fact that this is “the closest team that [he has] been a part of” is the reason for the team’s success. Kerber also believes that the “team chemistry is great, everyone brings their own personality to the group.” This chemistry has definitely lead to wins on the field, and is likely to lead to wins in the recruiting phase of the game as well. “The future [of the program] definitely does look bright,” said Willigan. He believes the class of 2017 “will leave Haverford soccer better than [they] found it, which means a lot for incoming prospective students.” Willigan is hopeful that, for years to come, students who want a great education and top competition won’t pass up Haverford.
While this year’s seniors acknowledge the success that they have had the past few years, they have not had time to reflect on their impact on the program. Willigan said that he did not reflect on the success that they have had since this past Saturday’s victory because “it marked three years of being undefeated in regular-season, conference play, which is pretty surreal, in addition to 15 straight wins in the Centennial [Conference]. Other than that, it’s business as usual. There will be time to reflect in December.”
The Fords will continue their run at history when they visit Rutgers-Camden on Wednesday night. This begins a stretch of four away games, including a meeting with Franklin & Marshall on October 22. They play at home next on October 26.
From the print edition published Oct. 5, 2016