Heartbreaking is the only appropriate word to describe Jack McVey’s goal that knocked the Saint Louis University men’s soccer team out of the NCAA Tournament.
After the golden goal, the Billikens stood in shock on the field, heads down, angry and sad. The realization began to dawn that their season was over.
The Billikens, Atlantic 10 champions and overall No. 8 seed, lost at home in double overtime against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights 2-1 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 18.
“You never want your season to end, but it is going to sometime and today we left it too late,” Alex Sweetin, midfielder, said.
The teams battled hard in the first half. Neither team managed to break through on offense, and the game remained scoreless at halftime.
The Knights broke through with the first goal in the 56th minute. Jan Aubert scored off an assist by Antony Moore. The Bills responded in the 73rd minute with a goal from Robbie Kristo that was scored off a header.
The game was tied at 1-1 going into overtime.
The Bills applied a lot of pressure in the first overtime, but could not get a goal. Although there were a few scoring opportunities, the team failed to put the ball away.
The Knights won in second overtime on a one timer goal. Antony Moore crossed the ball into the box where Jack McVey headed it into the net to end the match.
The Bills’ season was over.
The Bills finished the season with a 16-5 overall record. That is a 10-win improvement from the previous season when the Bills finished 6-10-1 in the 2011 season. Next season, the team will have a number of players returning from this year’s team.
The team opened the season with a 2-1 loss to a nationally ranked Indiana team, but the team bounced back with two consecutive wins.
The Bills got its first taste of success in national competition after the University of Louisville visited Hermann Stadium. The No. 18 Cardinals lost against the Billikens thanks to a late Adnan Gabeljic-goal. It was the first nationally ranked opponent that the Bills defeated this season.
After the Louisville victory, the team suffered its worst defeat until the NCAA tournament loss in an overtime match against the University of Denver Pioneers. They lost 2-1.
However, the Bills responded with three victories, including a key road victory against Creighton who was No. 7 at the time.
After an opening conference loss against Xavier, the Bills collected five straight conference victories, including a dramatic 3-2 double overtime match against Virginia Commonwealth University. The Bills had a 5-1 conference record going into a key matchup on Oct. 26 against Charlotte. The Bills claimed first place in the Atlantic 10 conference standings.
The Charlotte game was the only shut out game against the Billikens all year. Charlotte claimed victory at 1-0.
The Bills easily won its next two A-10 conference matches and claimed a No. 2 seed in the A-10 conference tournament.
The high point of the Bills season was the A-10 tournament. The team opened the tournament with a 3-1 win against La Salle. The Bills then faced Xavier, one of the four teams that defeated the Bills earlier in the season. The Bills got their revenge against Xavier with a 1-0 victory and moved onto the A-10 conference finals where faced VCU.
The Bills jumped out to an early lead and won A-10 title. Their win got them a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament. The Bills NCAA tournament run ended early.
For next year, the team loses three key players from this year’s squad— Alex Sweetin, Michael Robson and Nick Maglasang. Robson and Maglasang both graduate this year, and Sweetin is not returning. Despite these loses, the team has nine players returning from the starting squad this season.
Robbie Kristo, the team’s leading goal scorer, will return for his junior year. Kristo had 11 goals and five assists this season for a grand total of 27 points and was named to the all-conference first team. Adnan Gabeljic and Kingsley Bryce will also return. They were the team’s second and third leading scorers, respectively. Bryce was also the MVP of the A-10 conference tournament.
David Graydon, who led the team with seven assists, will return for his sophomore year. Graydon was named to the all-freshman team in his rookie season. Jon Roeckle will return for his senior year; he had three goals and six assists for the team this season.
On the defense, Anthony Manning will return as a center back. Manning received second team all-conference honors this season. Besides Manning, Roeckle and Tyler David will return on the defensive line for the Bills. Marco Heskamp, who started the majority of the year, will also be another returning defender for the Bills.
Goalkeeper Nick Shackelford will also return for his senior year. Shackelford had a 0.85 goals allowed average, posted seven shutouts last season and had a .798 save percentage. Due to the collective work of both Shackelford and the defense, the Bills ranked second in goals allowed and fourth in shutouts this season.
“It’s a great group, I love everyone one of them, they are great kids and have great upside,” Head Coach Mike McGinty said of the team. “I’m blessed to be a part of the group.”
Next season marks a major change in A-10 soccer. Temple and Charlotte will no longer take part in the conference. As perennial soccer contender in the A-10, the departure of Charlotte from conference play creates an easier road for the Billikens.
Though the Bills season is over, the future is very bright for the team.