by Jeff Williams ’17
The Providence College Men’s Soccer Team had a remarkable conclusion to the 2016 regular season, running the gauntlet with eight straight victories (including an undefeated October) and the Big East regular season. PC suffered a tough 2-1 loss in the first round of the Big East tournament to the Creighton Blue Jays. The Friar men had hoped to receive a first round bye into the NCAA tournament, but were seeded into the first round, hosting the Delaware Blue Hens. As goalie Colin Miller ’19 expressed, “We were excited for the opportunity, after losing to Creighton we had a chip on our shoulder.” The Friars cruised, 2-0, to advance to the second round.
Providence traveled to face the number one ranked and undefeated Maryland Terrapins in College Park. This game sparked a homecoming of sorts for Miller, who hails from Bel Air, Maryland, just an hour away. “We wanted to give it our all,” he said. PC faced steep odds on the home turf of the most dominant machine in college soccer. Despite an early goal by First Team All-American Julian Gressel ’17, the Terrapins were fully in control for most of the game, taking a 2-1 lead to the half, and then scoring two quick goals to go up 4-1. “I think when we went down early a lot of people stopped watching” recalled Miller. “Captain brought us together, [and said] stay together no matter the outcome.”
The tide began turning in the 70th minute. Gressel collected a rebounded corner kick and put it away for his second goal. Just 36 seconds later, Nick Sailor ’17 made it 4-3 with a long, looping shot that curled into the top left hand corner of the net. Miller feels that this was the most impressive strike of the evening. “He hadn’t scored since his freshman year!” He remembers that after this sequence, he knew they could actually win this game. “After the second and third goals, it went really quickly.” Four minutes later, Danny Griffin’s ’20 shot was deflected to Steven Kilday ’19. His shot from 25 yards somehow made its way through traffic to tie it up. The game winner came in the 82nd minute, when Joao Serrano ’20 bent a corner kick into the net to complete the improbable comeback, 5-4. “Joao Serrano was pretty incredible too from the corner flag,” added the winning goalie.
None of the last three scorers had done so this season, and the Terrapins had not allowed five goals in a game in years. In the third round, the Friar men traveled to Omaha, Nebraska for a rematch with Creighton, and got revenge on their last loss, 2-1. They next traveled to Chapel Hill to take on the ninth seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA quarterfinals.On Dec. 1, the magical run ended with a 1-0 loss in double overtime. The Friars would end the 2016 season ranked tenth in the nation by the NSCAA.
The 2016 season’s Elite Eight run is the latest in a run of success for the PC men’s soccer team. As Miller added, “For us, we were trying to make this a program. One of the main goals is to consistently make a run for the national title.” Despite the departure of Gressel and his classmates, Miller fully expects the Friar men to be strong next year once again. “It’ll be a very talented team, we have some good graduating seniors but you can expect a very talented group of players. We’re very fortunate and we hope we can win another regular season title. We should be a very mature, competitive, enthusiastic, blue collar, hard working team.”