In September 2015, the Emerson men’s soccer team lost by five goals to Massachusetts Institute of Technology when they were shut out by their fellow New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference team.
Almost exactly one year later, on Sep. 17, 2016, the whistle sounded after 90 minutes of play between Emerson and MIT to indicate the arrival of overtime, and, more importantly, Emerson’s neck-and-neck play against the reigning conference champions.
Last year the Lions were 5-13, and this year they also won five games, with 11 losses after two games were cut from the schedule. But if you looked at Emerson’s record for each year and saw the number five indicating the amount of wins for both years, you wouldn’t know that the team had improved at all.
“[The season was] better than last year, and the record is almost identical,” head coach Javier Mejia ‘05 said. “Just looking at the numbers from someone outside the program, you wouldn’t think there was any improvement. People would say, ‘They kind of stagnated, they plateaued; no improvements there.’ Fortunately, the team doesn’t feel that way.”
Last year was the former marketing major’s first season coaching, and the team had to adjust.
“The guys [were] getting used to me, the new coaching style. We made some adjustments in training and matches, tried a new formation, but all these things take time,” Mejia said. “This year, the players that were returning understood my coaching philosophy better, so we didn’t have to worry about that as much. We made some strategy [and] tactical adjustments, which take some time as well. But I think everybody agrees that we’ve been playing better.”
A breakdown of their wins shows this to be true—games were much closer than they have been in recent years. Last year, out of seven conference games played, six were lost by a deficit of more than one goal. This year, only two were lost by two or more goals—and one game was a win.
The Lions earned their first-ever New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference win against Coast Guard this year, making school history when sophomore forward Max DeLuca scored the only goal of the game during the 31st minute.
“[It] was unbelievable,” senior captain and forward/midfielder Duncan Bochicchio said.
Bochicchio, a journalism major, said it was made even sweeter by simply being on the team last year, and “getting smoked just about every single game.” He also said that they had a feeling the win would happen this season after their thrilling overtime match against MIT.
Coaches and players said one key reason for that win was the schedule leading up to the Coast Guard match. The team normally plays a Wednesday non-conference game and then goes on to tackle a NEWMAC rival on Saturday. Before Coast Guard, however, the Lions had the previous Wednesday off, allowing them to prepare more and focus specifically on their opponent’s play.
Sophomore back Paul Bou Aziz, a communication studies major, said they took full advantage of the extra time.
“[We learned] this year that we do better when we have a full week’s worth of training, so, maybe next year—depending on the schedule—we can probably do more training with NEWMAC games,” he said. “That definitely helped.”
Mejia agrees, and has already made next season’s schedule to adhere to this strategy. He moved many of the midweek matches to Monday, rather than Wednesday, so the team can have four days to prepare for a Saturday conference matchup instead of two.
Along with the adjustment to the schedule for next season, the Lions are looking forward to new opportunities on the field after establishing a base for the team to grow upon.
“We [as a team] are still building a name for ourselves, so hopefully getting that first NEWMAC win puts our name on the map a little bit,” freshman back Creighton Dorfman said. “I don’t think there’s any excuse for us anymore, to say, ‘Oh, we’re Emerson, we lost again,’ in the conference. I don’t think it’s like that anymore.”