Men's Soccer end season with loss
Men's Soccer fell, 4-0, to Lafayette on Saturday, Nov. 8 on Reeves Field in their last match of the season, which was also Senior Day. AU recognized defender Brett Niebling, the only senior on the squad, in a pre-match ceremony at the center circle. Then the Leopards recognized their seniors, all 10 of them, with a dominant performance on every part of the pitch.
"They came in trying to prepare for the playoffs," AU head coach Todd West said of Lafayette. "We tried to tell our guys that we were playing for next season, but in a kid's mind, I think nine months is a very long time. You see what happens when you have 10 seniors who play well together"
Senior Leopard forward Ralph Rapuano had perhaps the match's best performance, scoring goals in the 29th and 73rd minute after assisting another senior forward, Jamie Mullarkey, to open the scoring in the 16th minute. Midfielder Ryan McCaughey scored Lafayette's third goal, eight minutes into the second half, effectively sealing AU's defeat.
The loss added insult to injury for the Eagles, who entered 2003 with the intention of qualifying for the NCAA tournament again, but were eliminated from the Patriot League Playoffs before the final weekend. The loss drops the Eagles to 7-9-1 to end the season, and 2-5 in the PL.
"There's a lot of talent on this team," West said of his side afterwards "But we still haven't learned to play together as a team, in good times and bad. We get behind each other when times are good, but when they're bad, we point fingers."
The 2003 season is the first time in their three year PL tenure that the Eagles failed to qualify for the PL playoffs. With numerous close games this season, and with very few in their favor, AU can only wonder over the winter break what could've been.
"In 1997, [when AU advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals] we won eight one-goal games," West said. "You find out a lot about your character in one-goal matches. This year we won one and lost seven."
All in all, it was an afternoon, as well as a season, that the Eagles would rather forget, but would do well to remember. AU created only a few chances, and the most notable stat accrued by an AU player was a red-card received by junior midfielder Peter Philipakos midway through the second half. Only Niebling, who deserved a better send-off, received praise that afternoon from the AU boss.
"I respect him a lot," West said. "He didn't start much in his first three seasons here, but he worked like a madman this off-season to get the starting spot as a senior. He never gave up"