Photo courtesy of goxavier.com | Senior Matt Vasquenza (No. 20) was a an integral part of a Xavier team that advanced to the Big East Soccer Championship game. He collected a total of nine goals and four assists during the 2017 season.
“It really hurts because this was a wonderful group and a team I loved to be with every day…it’s a very emotional ending that will take a while to get over.”
These were the sentimental words of men’s soccer head coach Andy Fleming after the emotional conclusion of the season last weekend.
While the Musketeers came up short in the Big East Tournament Championship game against Georgetown, the team still has a lot to be proud of this season.
Entering the men’s Big East Tournament, the team was coming off a tough 2-1 loss to Butler.
“The loss to Butler at the end of the regular season was a transformational moment in that I felt the players sensed the end of the road was real, and it created some urgency and allowed them to take the team over and set the mindset,” Fleming said.
This new mindset of the team was put to the test in its first tournament game against Providence.
Shutting the Friars out with a score of 3-0, the Musketeers were playing with a new mentality. Knowing it was a “win or go home” situation, the team never slowed down.
Behind two goals from redshirt sophomore Samson Sergi and one from junior Simos Hestnes, Xavier showed complete dominance over Providence. This win propelled the team to the tournament semifinals.
Xavier then traveled to No. 1 Butler, where it had suffered a loss just one week prior. With their new mentality, the Musketeers came into the game ready to play. Xavier jumped out in front of Butler with a 2-0 lead going deep into the second half.
“As the Big East is among the nation’s leaders, we continued to score goals and generate corner kicks at a prolific rate,” Fleming said.
These two goals ended up being vastly important as Butler tied the game in the last 15 minutes, sending the match to overtime.
Although both teams had their chances in overtime, neither could find the back of the net. The game went to penalty kicks, where the Musketeers defeated the Bulldogs 4-1.
Xavier goalkeeper Colin Hanley came up huge for the team, only allowing one goal in the shootout.
This marquee win over the conference’s top team sent the Musketeers to the championship game on Nov. 12 to face the Georgetown Hoyas.
The Musketeers struck first in the second half on a penalty kick from senior Matt Vasquenza.
“(We) were fortunate enough to score first in each of the three games,” Fleming said.
Despite scoring first, the Hoyas tied the game in the second half to send it to overtime. Then Georgetown scored a golden goal to claim the Big East title.
Although Xavier fell in the championship game and missed an NCAA Tournament berth, Fleming was still proud of his team.
“If anything, we played in some very intense high-energy games in the post season, which I think for our non-seniors will pay dividends down the road,” Fleming said.
Next season the Musketeers will look to make a repeat appearance in the conference final in an attempt to take home its first-ever Big East soccer crown in program history.
By: Colin Cooper ~Staff Writer~