As one Minnesota club team started its conference season successfully, another University club team looked for continued success in the postseason.
The Minnesota’s men’s club soccer team, which is ranked 10th in the nation, will head to Phoenix, Ariz., today to play in the national club soccer championships.
The tournament, which will be held Nov. 21-23, is similar to the World Cup in format. The 16 teams that have made the field are broken up into four brackets of four. Each team plays a round robin tournament within their bracket, and the top two teams in each bracket advance to the next round. The remaining eight teams continue in single elimination for the duration of the tournament.
Minnesota’s coach, Mike Cummings, said he wants his team to at least advance to the single elimination portion of the tournament.
“Our goal is to get to the quarterfinals and then go game by game,” he said.
Several players on the team believe they have a good chance of going far in the tournament.
“If we play up to our potential, I don’t think we’ll get beat at nationals,” said right fullback and club president Eric Kepler.
Minnesota knows it won’t be easy, though.
“We got a real tough draw with Illinois out of our bracket,” said center midfielder and club vice president John Richardson. Illinois is the top-ranked team in the nation. University of California-Berkeley and Southwest Texas State are the other teams in Minnesota’s bracket.
One of Minnesota’s strengths has been a balanced scoring attack. The club had six players who scored at least five goals. The team averaged three goals a game during their 14-3-1 season.
“We’ve got 21 guys and we can play 21,” said Richardson.
The most impressive aspect of the team, however, may be its defense. Goaltender Chris Kakos had a 0.77 goals-against average while recording 10 shutouts in Minnesota’s 18 games.
“All those shutouts that I had, I didn’t have to work so hard. My defense was that good,” Kakos said.
This is the first time that the club has had organized games in three years. Before this year, the club racked up several debts and was not allowed to compete until they were paid off. It has been a rallying point for the team.
“We have a lot of unity,” Kepler said.
As a result of the players’ hard work, Cummings praised the dedication of his players.
“They were willing to commit to the team and work hard,” he said.
Since starting the season on a sour note, going 0-3 in its own tournament, the Minnesota women’s club hockey team has begun its conference schedule very strong.
Both Kendra Kauppi and Marisa Steckis had a goal and an assist to help the women’s club hockey team to a 3-0 win Sunday over conference rival St. Olaf. It was the second straight win for Minnesota.
“We feel real good because we’ve redeemed ourselves,” said senior right wing Janet Duszka. Minnesota used the two wins to improve its record to 2-3. The club had finished eighth, and last, place in the All American Girls’ and Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament prior to the start of the conference season.
“Our spirits are definitely higher now,” said sophomore center Jamie Lindblom.
Even though they dominated much of the play and came away with the victory, several Minnesota players were disappointed with their effort.
“We stepped down to St. Olaf’s level and we’re better than that,” said junior goaltender Sarah Thomas. Thomas recorded her first shutout of the season against St. Olaf.
Minnesota won its first conference game of the season Wednesday at University of Wisconsin-River Falls by a 3-0 score. The game, however, proved to be not nearly as difficult as the journey for some players.
While carpooling to the game, some members of the team missed a turn and found themselves a few miles from Eau Claire, Wis. After discovering their mistake, the players turned around and started heading back.
“I swear we were going 90-some miles per hour,” Lindblom said.
The players, after passing a state trooper along the way, managed to arrive at the rink just as the puck was being dropped to open the game.
“They were on a big adrenaline rush then,” Duszka said of the players who arrived late.
“It was a journey and a half,” said Lindblom.