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ELITE EIGHT

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ELITE EIGHT

Luther Men's Soccer faced the University of Chicago on Nov. 18 in the NCAA III Championships held in Chicago.

Luther Men's Soccer faced the University of Chicago on Nov. 18 in the NCAA III Championships held in Chicago.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Luther Men's Soccer faced the University of Chicago on Nov. 18 in the NCAA III Championships held in Chicago.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Luther Men's Soccer faced the University of Chicago on Nov. 18 in the NCAA III Championships held in Chicago.

Kelao Charmaine Neumbo, Staff Writer

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Luther Men’s Soccer was defeated by the University of Chicago 1-0 after 7 minutes and 25 seconds of overtime in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championships on Nov. 18. Luther finished their season with 19-4-1 for all games including non-conference play, first in the region, and first in the American Rivers Conference with 6-1-1.

After the opening weekend of the 2018 NCAA Division III Men’s National Soccer Tournament on Nov. 10-11, Luther defeated Knox College and Dominican University 1-0 and 3-2, respectively. Luther then advanced as quarterfinalists for the third time in the college’s history since the tournament field was increased to 62 teams. Luther’s last appearance in the quarterfinals was in 2001.

This was Luther’s ninth appearance in the national tournament and has posted a tournament record of 9-7. Luther had an undefeated streak of 11 matches this season that began with a 2-1 home victory over Simpson College on Oct. 10.

Over the weekend of Nov. 17-18, Luther traveled to the University of Chicago, who hosted a two-day run of sectional games in the national tournament.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Luther Men’s Soccer participated in the quarterfinals of the NCAA III Championships for the first time in 17 years.

On Nov. 17, Luther (18-3-1) faced the University of St. Thomas (16-3-2) and defeated them 1-0 with a game-winning goal in the 54th minute. The goal was scored by Ben Keller (‘20) and assisted by Brunno Colon (‘19). This was Keller’s 12th goal of the year and seventh game-winning goal.

Luther’s Men’s Head Soccer Coach Chris Garcia-Prats was satisfied by the efforts Luther made against St. Thomas.

“There wasn’t a lot of attacking in the game,” Garcia-Prats said in an interview after the game. “I thought there was a lot of defending, but we were able to be kind of opportunistic with the chance and Brunno [Colon] got it on frame and Ben Keller was there to put it way. We defended very well. For us to beat them twice in one year is, I think, a huge achievement for our guys. We are 90 minutes away from the final four.”

Prior to this year, Luther reached the round of eight in 1996 and 2001. In 1996, Luther was defeated by Kenyon College (2-0) and in 2001 lost to Redlands Community College (2-0). With the victory against St. Thomas, Luther has an NCAA III National Tournament record of 10-7.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve been here,” Garcia-Prats said. “I am already getting messages from a lot of ‘96 and ‘01 guys who were a part of that. Any time we’ve spent time with our alums they always wanted us to get [further than they did].”

On Nov. 17, Garcia-Prats focused on preparing the team for their next match of the sectional tournament, set to take place the next day.

“It’s just about recovering and preparing the handling of the host University [of] Chicago who has done a phenomenal job at taking care of us this weekend,” Garcia-Prats said.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Brunno Colon (‘19) kicks the ball in the game against the University of Chicago.

Following the victory against St. Thomas on Nov. 17, Luther played their match against the University of Chicago on Nov. 18, who were ranked No. 1 in the country and No. 3 in the tournament. Neither teams scored in the first and second halves but were allotted an overtime period of seven minutes and 25 seconds where Luther was defeated 1-0, marking the end of their run in the national tournament. Carson Davenport (‘21) kept Luther in the match by stopping eight shots to the goal, a personal record in his career.

Luther midfielder Arthur Djengue Bille (‘22) responded positively to the team’s results.

“You don’t think about semifinals [or] quarterfinals, you just think about the moment you are in,” Djengue Bille said. “If you win the game, then you win for that day. We played well and we fought till the end. It was also great to see Norse supporters fill the stands more than [University of] Chicago had.”

Garcia-Prats was proud of the team’s achievements, despite their loss.

“Chicago is a great team,” Garcia-Prats said. “We can see why they’ve been in the final four before and why they are there now: Hats off to them. I couldn’t be more proud of the leadership our kids showed tonight. This is the furthest we have been since 2001 [and] this is a group that had a lot of successes. Taking Chicago to overtime is a huge achievement.”

Nana Asante-Apeatu (‘20) joined the team this year and is positive about their future.

“Although we are going to be losing a lot of seniors, we are still left with a strong core to rebuild,” Asante-Apeatu said. “We would like to keep ourselves to a high standard. Looking forward in the tournament, we are rooting for Chicago to win, because if they do, it will say a lot about us because we were able to take them into overtime nill-nill.”

Luke VonEschen (‘19) played his last game during the tournament and is proud of his time as a Norse.

“When I’ll look back it, I will look back at it as a wonderful season full of ups and downs,” VonEschen said. “I am super proud of wearing the Luther jersey every time I put it on.”

University of Chicago Head Men’s Soccer Coach Mike Babst was impressed with the game against Luther.

“We are not used to not having the game by the first half,” Babst said. “It was very frustrating not to score. It took us a lot longer than it should have. But it says everything about this group and how well they played.”

The University of Chicago advanced to the semifinals and championship match weekend, that will be held at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro Soccer Stadium from Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Earning all-academic team recognition were VonEschen, Aidan O’Driscoll (‘19), Harry Merz (‘20), Davenport, Steven Johnson (‘21), and Paul Strand (‘21). Luther ends its season with the best single season record under the 11-year leadership of Garcia-Prats.

Updates of the NCAA Championship tournament can be found at https://www.ncaa.com/sports/soccer-men/d1.

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