Following a successful regular season, the Augustana men’s soccer club closed out their year with a challenging finish. The Vikings tied one game and lost another at the Region V Tournament leaving them with 7-3-1 record.
“We didn’t play to our ability,” senior co-captain Logan Bulock said. “Small mistakes ended up getting to us.”
Co-captain senior Sean Casmey agreed with Bulock.
“We played well, but we could have played better,” he said. “We played better than the results show.”
Held Oct. 25-27 in Golden, Colo., the tournament pitted the Vikings against Iowa State and the University of Colorado Boulder, both schools with enrollments exceeding 25,000. With a student population of 1,850, Augustana was the smallest school competing in the tournament by a considerable margin. According to the players, this large gap in resources, combined with the higher altitude of their location, may have factored into the team’s overall performance.
“They actually had coaches and managers and so much more money,” Casmey said.
Bulock said Augustana was the only team in the tournament without a coach, but said they proved themselves as a strong team by tying Iowa State.
Sophomore Nirmal Vaddiraju cited the altitude as a reason for the team’s struggle.
“I think it was partly the conditions,” he said. “There’s thinner air so you need a higher level of energy to compete.”
The regional tournament consisted of three pools of three teams each, with the winners of each pool heading to the semi-finals. Augustana played Iowa State on Friday, Oct. 25, tying 3-1. Sophomore Cory Kralovetz scored one goal and sophomore Juan Pablo Juliao added two against the Ames, Iowa team. The Vikings lost to the University of Colorado Boulder the next day, 0-3. Colorado State University was the winning club team of the Region V Tournament.
Despite ending the season with a loss, many players view this season as a source of optimism. Last year, the Vikings did not win a single game. This year, they finished second in the Great Plains Soccer Conference and reached the postseason for the first time since 2008. A renewed sense of teamwork was integral in the improvement.
“In the past we had a lot of strong individuals, but we never had a good team,” Casmey said. “This year we had to completely redevelop. We had a young team which had to come together throughout the season.”
This year, the club was composed primarily of international students, each hailing from one of 13 different countries around the globe. The higher level of diversity provided an additional motivation to improve the team’s group dynamic.
“It’s more like a sense of belonging this year. The team dynamic has improved and more people have shown up for practice,” Vaddiraju said.
Bulock said regular practices helped the team adapt to each other’s styles.
“It was kind of beautiful how it all came together,” Bulock said. “They all have different styles, we have our American style. Everyone had to get to know each other.”
Departing seniors Bulock and Casmey agree that this season ranks among the most successful of their careers at Augustana.
“This is the best team I’ve played on,” Bulock said. “We had a lot of fun. If everyone stayed for next year we’d be such a strong team.”
The players returning for the upcoming season recognize the challenge of replacing their 2013 co-captains.
“Next year will be very prospective,” Vaddiraju said. “It will be a whole new phase for our team.”
Newly elected team captain Cory Kralovetz said he was ready for the challenge of next year.
“There are a lot of positions we need to fill,” the sophomore said. “We have to just deal with what we’re given.”
Although there are foreseeable challenges, Kralovetz hopes next year’s Vikings will be able to continue their success from last year.
“We have a good set of guys coming back,” Kralovetz said. “We just need to keep going where we left off.”