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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Men’s soccer enters tourney with talent and luck

Three weeks ago, men’s soccer coach Brian Jaworski told his team they had clinched a spot in the Midwest Conference Tournament. At 6-0-0 and with 18 points in conference play, he thought his team was a lock. He was wrong.

Men's Soccer Grinnell v Coe
Adrian Alston Moore ’14, left, fights for possesion of the ball against a Coe College midfielder earlier in the season - Ben Brewer

“I don’t like being wrong to the team, number one,” Jaworski said. “I knew what I’d said, and you don’t want to say that, and now I’m thinking, ‘Oh gosh.’”

Two weeks and two losses later, it looked as if Jaworski had jinxed his team. The Pioneers were in a fight to keep their post-season aspirations alive and had just lost 4-3 to Lake Forest College with a possible share of the conference title on the line. Now, the team faced what looked like a must-win game against Beloit College on the following Saturday.

Then, just as suddenly, Lake Forest lost its next game, and the Pioneers were in. No must-win game against Beloit. No pressure. They were bound for the Conference Tournament.

“You definitely want to exhale,” Jaworski said. “You also get a feeling of accomplishment. We’re already there, so let’s go Beloit. Now that allows us to play the Beloit game without the negative pressure of ‘you lose and you’ve just squandered a 6-0-0 record.’”

With a spot in the tournament already in hand, seeding is all that’s at stake in Saturday’s contest against Beloit. In the four-team tournament, the Pioneers can be either the two, three or four seed.

The fact that the team’s season is no longer at stake does not change the team’s mentality or style of play.

“We’re not going to risk losing guys. We’re not going to go crazy, but at the same time, we don’t want to go into the tournament on a losing note,” said Captain Mark Rosenberg ’11. “The stakes are a little bit higher and a little bit lower. We know that it doesn’t matter in terms of making the tournament, but we also know that we have to be ready to play and have to get better. It’s our last chance. I’m a senior. This is my last game on the home field.”

For Saturday’s game, Jaworski will try something new with his team, switching from their traditional 2-3-2-3 formation to a more aggressive 3-4-3. Jaworski hopes the move will allow his team to keep pace with the high-powered Beloit offense.

“They’re very, very good,” Jaworski said. “They are built to attack, and they are built to attack with speed and unselfish play. Beloit moves the ball around as unselfishly as anybody in our league, and as quickly. It’s tough to defend. Saturday’s game is going to be a firecracker, hell of a game. It’s going to be awesome.”

While the 3-4-3 formation allows the Pioneers to play a quicker game, it also makes the midfielders more accountable for their actions and demands solid execution on defense.

“It puts a lot of strain and pressure on the outside mids to get back because they have to do a lot of marking as well,” said Alex Bolinger ‘14. “It’s non-stop, up and down for that position. And if you get beat, it’s very obvious that you got beat, and you will get scored on.”

He added that 16 to 18 players could see the field, far more than is customary. However, with several nagging injuries, the move also allows Jaworski to rest his players.

The team will need all the rest they can get before next Saturday when they begin defense of their Conference Title.
The Pioneers face-off on Saturday, Oct. 30, against Beloit College at Springer Field.

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