Men’s soccer reflects on a successful season

Talented. Brotherly. Hard-working. These are all words that could be used to describe the St. Olaf men’s soccer team. The 2021 fall season proved to be historic for the program, with several players gaining accolades. 

Prior to the start of the regular season, domestic players arrived on campus in mid-August to begin their training, while international members joined virtually. A rigorous training and practice schedule helped the team hone their skills before the start of the academic year.  

With players hailing from eight countries — Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Guatemala, Jordan, and South Korea —and six U.S. states, the men’s soccer team is quite a diverse group compared to other teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). Despite the differences in geography, the team has proven time and time again that they are able to play as a unit. 

“Each of us is able to understand that we are different, but still include others [within] the environment and be friendly,” forward Hakeem Morgan ’24 said. “Everyone feels welcome and there’s no judgment on our team.” 

In addition to the team’s diversity, players highlight the importance of bonding. Regardless of age, nationality, or position, all players are able to get along on and off the field. This is clear in the team’s performance, as forwards, midfielders, and defenders alike navigate the field flawlessly. 

“We have stronger bonds compared to any other team. At the end of the day we’re able to come back together. I think that has contributed to our success,” said goalkeeper Austin Williams ’24, who is the first Ole and only sophomore to be awarded the first Academic All-District award by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) in District 6. 

Along with extensive talent across the roster, players point to head coach Travis Wall as a reason for the team’s unprecedented success thus far. In his third year as head coach, Wall was just named MIAC Coach of the Year. According to players, strong leadership on behalf of Coach Wall and the rest of the staff, combined with the recent renovation of Rolf Mellby Field and the team’s locker room has paved the way for current triumphs and what’s to come. 

Led by senior captains Lucas Gaulmin ’22 and Thierno Gueye ’22, both French natives, the team became the fifth in conference history to ever achieve a perfect regular season record (10-0-0). Their victories also landed them in the national ranking for several weeks. 

Despite the success, the team’s mindset has remained steady from the beginning. “We were never scared of losing. We’ve always just wanted to win,” Gaulmin said. “I’ve been on a lot of teams, but this one just feels special.” Instead of focusing on the number of games won or their rank, players took it ‘game by game,’” concentrating on what needed improvement. 

“As a coach, I definitely take it one game at a time. I think for the most part our players did too, and that’s a big reason why we put that streak together. When you chase records, you lose sight of what you’re actually trying to accomplish,” Wall said. “We didn’t set out with a goal of winning a certain amount of games in a row…we want to win the conference and whatever happens to help get us there, we’ll take it.” The team was able to continue their success by being confident in their abilities; knowing that they were responsible for the hard work that had placed them in the top dog position. 

With the addition of a new class of recruits, the St. Olaf men’s soccer team has only continued to grow its talent in every position on the field. With six players being recognized as All-Conference — Gualmin, Victor Gaulmin ’24, Gueye, Casey McCloskey ’24, Hakeem Morgan ’24, and Shea Bechtel ’25 — it’s hard to deny that the young team is capable of making an impact. All together, the team is sure to be prepared for any future that awaits them, including playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s Division III soccer tournament. 

“More to do, more to come” continues to be the motto for the team moving forward. According to Rookie of the Year recipient, Bechtel, “We know what we’re capable of. We put the trust in ourselves to know that we are capable of winning while keeping the mindset that there is still work to be done.” 

 

inamag1@stolaf.edu

 

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