Then there was the goal, Suffolk players celebrating and it was all over.,It wasn't supposed to end like that. The Emerson men's soccer team had just spent two months rolling over their competition, on a march to a conference championship. But then their first-round playoff game with Suffolk University went into overtime.
Then there was the goal, Suffolk players celebrating and it was all over.
But while they might not have made it as far as they had hoped, the Lions made it miles further than they did last season.
They not only improved their record but also joined the ranks as one of the top teams in their conference.
The Emerson men kicked off preseason with an overwhelming 40-plus players fighting for a spot on the team. After two weeks of grueling three-a-day training sessions, Emerson men's coach, Jared Scarpaci, settled on an unusually large roster of 25 players with an additional six to make up a practice squad.
Along with hopeful veterans was a talented freshman class ready to help the Lions come back from last year's disappointments, when a lack of senior leadership was at the root of the men's struggles. This year was different.
"Last year, we had no seniors, so everyone could play knowing they had another year to make up for it," said senior Co-Captain Cody Schram of the team's newfound motivation. "This year, however, we had a great group of seniors who knew that this could be their last year playing ball, so we accepted nothing less than a successful season."
The Lions' first loss in the season opener against Eastern Nazarene College last year remained vivid in the players' minds, and, having to once again face the team in their opening game, the Lions refused to get off to another poor start.
They rose to victory in a close 2-1 match. It was the first of many victories as the men quadrupled last season's win total of three, finishing 12-6-2.
Their record placed them fourth in their conference, tied with Suffolk. But they were surpassing their opponents in other ways, leading the conference with 321 shots, 56 goals and a scoring average of about three goals a game.
Moreover, they did not let anyone push them around; their aggressive style of play eventually landed them a total of 23 yellow cards, the second most in the conference.
However, the men didn't just redeem themselves in their conference; they had bigger fish to tackle. Out of all of the Division III schools in the nation, the Lions ranked 23rd in scoring.
Scarpaci said none of this could have been accomplished without that boost of senior leadership, especially from Will Sagar and Schram.
"The guys came back with a new attitude and said, 'Hey, there's only one guy that can get this done, and that's me,'" Scarpaci said.
And get it done they did. Sagar led the conference in goals per game, and Schram totaled the most assists.
Both players were also recognized as Great Northeast Athletic Conference Players of the Week.
With nine seniors graduating, four of them starters, the question next year will be whether the Lions can continue their success.
"Losing these seniors will impact them gravely because they spent two years at the old field and they really appreciated the luxury of Rotch," said Scarpaci. "I hope the rest of the team will appreciate it like they did."
Fortunately for the Lions, it is doubtful that senior leadership will be a problem next year. The nine seniors leaving will be replaced by the eight juniors on the team.
"We have a lot of good guys coming back," said Scarpaci. "We had a lot of talented players on the bench that will contribute next year."