The SVSU men’s soccer team reached the GLIAC tournament final this past weekend but ultimately fell to Davenport University 1-0 in the championship game on Sunday, Nov. 5.
From here, SVSU (13-4-1 overall) will wait and see what the NCAA Division II playoff bracket looks like, as they will continue postseason play in the national tournament.
“We made the NCAA Tournament, which was our number one goal, but we should be the team going in as the winner and not the runner up,” head coach Andy Wagstaff said. “I feel we left something on the field (against Davenport).”
Against Davenport, the Cardinals ripped shot after shot at Panther goalkeeper Aaron Orban, but they couldn’t find the back of the net despite 15 shots as a team.
In the 43rd minute, midfielder Keagan Bailie connected with midfielder Noah Fetterolf on a long ball toward the back post that Fetterolf was able to finish that gave Davenport a 1-0 advantage.
“Beating a team of the caliber of Davenport three times is very tough,” Wagstaff said. “We felt like we wasted a lot of chances, and that cannot happen if you want to win titles.”
SVSU frantically tried to equalize in the second half, but shot after shot was either just missed or saved by Orban to keep the Cardinals off the scoreboard.
SVSU’s last-ditch effort came in the 87th minute on a shot by forward Chris Jacovou, but the shot missed high, and the Panthers sealed the victory and the conference tournament championship.
In the semifinal match against Northern Michigan on Friday, Nov. 3, at Northwood, SVSU came away with a 1-0 victory over the Wildcats.
GLIAC Freshman of the year Michael Hamilton scored in the 69th minute on an assist from Chris Jacovou to give the Cardinals just enough to reach the GLIAC final.
“(NMU) set themselves up to defend and counter,” Wagstaff said. “Fortunately, we didn’t concede and we didn’t give away an awful lot of shots and we created a lot of chances.”
The game was scoreless in the first half, despite SVSU outshooting NMU 8-3. As the Cardinals continued to outshoot the Wildcats in the second half, Hamilton’s goal finally broke the scoreless tie.
Prior to the goal, Jacovou went for goal following a long run, but his shot hit the side bar and headed back toward the field of play, where Hamilton was able to beat the Northern defenders to the ball and break the tie.
“It felt amazing to win,” sophomore midfielder Pablo Ortiz said of his first game back from injury in over a month. “It was a game we were all confident with.”
The SVSU defense was once again stout, notching an eighth clean sheet of the season, despite a late scratch of defender Oakley Hanger. In Hanger’s absence, Jahmall Whittaker joined the back four and performed well in Hanger’s absence.
Sophomore goalkeeper Connor Keane saved Northern’s only shot on goal for the match, as the Cardinal defense stifled any NMU attack for the entirety of the match.
“Connor Keane was fantastic,” Wagstaff said. “The back four played very well as well.”
In addition to Hamilton winning GLIAC Freshman of the Year, nine other Cardinals were named to various All-GLIAC teams prior to the conference tournament.
Keane was named GLIAC Goalkeeper of the Year, while forward Matt Wilson, midfielder Connor Rutz, defender Dom Hart, Hamilton and defender Omar Sinclair joined him on the first team as well. Midfielder Azaad Liadi, forward Michael Shaikly and Hanger were all named to the All-GLIAC Second Team.
Defender Brian Sockow was named All-GLIAC Honorable Mention.
“It says a lot about the quality and the depth of the squad,” Wagstaff said. “Without a full squad of 26 players that are all very good, you probably don’t win 13 games this year and we’re probably not getting all of the awards we got. Depth more than anything else was what allowed us to win these games and therefore allowed us to be respected and win the awards that we did.”
Additionally, Wagstaff was once again named GLIAC Coach of the Year, his third time receiving the honor in three seasons at the helm at SVSU.