Historic season for Blugold men’s soccer comes to an end

The Blugold men’s soccer team lose 4-3 against St. Olaf
Fourth-year defender David Lynch kicks the ball away under pressure. (Photo by Shane Opatz, used with permission from Blugold Athletics)
Fourth-year defender David Lynch kicks the ball away under pressure. (Photo by Shane Opatz, used with permission from Blugold Athletics)

The UW-Eau Claire men’s soccer team’s historic tournament run came to an end last Saturday in Chicago.

The Blugolds ended up losing by a score of 4-3 against St. Olaf College in the team’s first NCAA tournament Sweet Sixteen appearance with a 13-5-2 record. 

The game was competitive from start to finish with St. Olaf gaining a 1-0 lead off a successful penalty kick to start the game in the 14th minute. Fourth-year Sam Lynch quickly responded with a quick goal to tie the game at one apiece after one minute of play. 

The Oles converted another penalty kick to regain the lead at the 39th minute, to which the Blugolds quickly responded off of fifth-year Ethan Andersen’s goal to make it 2-2 shortly before halftime. 

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St. Olaf scored again in the 60th minute and it took until the 83rd minute when third-year Nathan Donovan would tie the game back up at 3, notching his 24th goal of the season. 

The Oles ended up scoring the game-winning goal by the 85-minute mark and held the Blugolds off to advance to the Elite Eight. 

“They’re a very good, well-coached soccer team,” head coach Casey Holm said.  “All seven goals were what we call set pieces, not the run of play. Guys battled back from going down a goal three separate times. I’m very proud of them.”  

Third-year students Will Heinen and Jacob Sampson share much of the same sentiment. 

“Great game, but an unfortunate outcome,” Sampson said. “Our little mistakes added up and cost us the result we wanted. I’m glad we went out swinging.”

As for Heinen, the game was a matter of what could have been.

“Very tough to lose a game like that,” Heinen said. “Felt like we were in it until the end. Any other day we could have had another result, but today just wasn’t our day.”

With the season now over, the only thing left is to reflect and look toward next season for Holm.   

“Takeaways revolve around how far we have come in three years,” Holm said. “Each year we have gotten better and gone further. These are the standards we have set. We always knew set pieces were the most important thing, but going into next year we will need to be even better.” 

However, according to Sampson, even just a few mistakes can cost the team the game. 

The biggest takeaway from this year would be to realize how close we were to going to the Final Four and even the championship,” Sampson said. “Knowing that a few plays decided our fate is something that will weigh on me heavily, but it’s nice to know that we are that close to our ultimate goal.”

For Heinen, it’s a reminder of how soccer can sometimes be a cruel and emotional game.

You may feel excited and happy at one point, and it can flip to sad and disappointed in an instant,” Heinen said. “Our ultimate goal of doing better than last year was achieved, but it’s bittersweet knowing we could have gone farther.” 

With the end of this season, there also comes added responsibilities for players such as Sampson and Heinen for the next.

“I plan on trying to become more of a leader for the team, as we are losing our leaders next year,” Sampson said. “With us bringing in new players next year, making sure that they are on the same page as all of us is important to me and will help our team become successful.”

If a team is to succeed together, it is always important that newcomers adapt to a style of play that leads to tournament appearances according to Heinen

I plan on making sure our incoming freshman can adapt to our play style and settle in nicely so we can prepare even sooner for postseason play,” Heinen said to new blood coming in.  

Meanwhile, Holm said consistency is the key to repeated success come next season.

We will continue to stick to our game plan. We will continue to get better at doing what we do. We will also continue to improve in our set piece defending and attacking,” Holm said.

For the players, there is always room for improvement and adjustment with changes on the horizon and the graduation of four seniors in 2023-24. 

“We will have to focus on the little details next year as they are what truly matter down the road,” Sampson said. “It is our year to step up as leaders since we are seniors, and make sure that the incoming freshman will have players to look up to next season.”

Heinen said he seconds this notion and that the graduation of those seniors changes the dynamic of the team. 

“The only thing that is changing next year would be losing our senior leaders,” Heinen said. “Having to have new people step up and take their place will be a task that we will have to adapt to for next year.”  

Though the season is over, this loss has not affected the mindset of Holm nor Sampson and Heinen. 

I think the guys were bummed but understood what happened and how the game goes,” Holm said. “End of the day someone is going to win and if you go out giving it everything you have, you can only be proud of what you have accomplished.” 

Sampson and Heinen said they share much of the same mindset in looking forward to next season.

After the game, a lot of us were upset after the result we had but we’re happy for how far we went,” Sampson said.

For teams that are eliminated, the only thing left is to plan and plot the next course of action for next season. 

A lot of us are already planning for next year and what we can accomplish,” Heinen said. 

Another season has come and gone for the Blugold men’s soccer team. But historic or otherwise, all the team can do now is look forward to the future.  


Teske can be reached at [email protected].


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