After a strong 2017 campaign featuring an appearance in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Final, the University of Dallas men’s soccer team had high expectations for 2018.
“We were just looking forward to keeping that momentum going and keeping our core group close together,” said sophomore midfielder Brady McNamara.
With Head Coach David Hoffmann entering his 16th season at the helm and an established group of experienced talent to lead the way, UD was poised to meet their goals heading into the fall.
After a 2-0 win against Sul Ross State in the season opener, Dallas then took a pair of tough 1-0 losses to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and Colorado College.
“We didn’t really get off to the hot start that we had last year,” said McNamara. “We had to fight a little more for it just because the other teams expected us to play a certain way.”
Dallas caught fire in the middle of the season, going on a five game winning streak that included a 5-0 victory over Schreiner University and a 2-1 win over conference rival and reigning SCAC champion Trinity University.
Afterwards, UD swapped wins and losses before hitting a three game losing skid to close the season. 11 of Dallas’ 16 games this season were decided by one goal.
Dallas earned the fifth seed in the SCAC Tournament hosted by Southwestern University, but suffered an early exit as the squad fell in the first round to Texas Lutheran University by a score of 5-1.
UD finished fifth in the SCAC with an 8-8 overall record including a 7-6 record against conference opponents. The Crusaders also held the 33rd most difficult schedule in the country.
The season presented more challenges for the Crusaders than stats and scores imply. Three matches and numerous practices were cancelled due to a seemingly unending stretch of bad weather. The rain also led to undesirable playing conditions when the squad was able to take the field.
“You have players trying to come back from injury and playing in wet weather makes it so much harder,” said sophomore midfielder Tomas DePetris.
DePetris was one of many players who caught the injury bug this season, which came in the form of everything from pulled muscles to concussions. Dallas faced their plague of injuries head on, not allowing it to lower team morale.
“I think if anything this season helped the team chemistry,” said DePetris. “You go through hard things as a team.”
The 2018 season held both struggles and lessons for the Crusaders, making them hungrier than ever for next season.
“You wanna take some time off to recover, but it doesn’t leave your mind,” said DePetris. “I think everybody is already thinking about next season.”
With 2018 now in the rearview mirror, the Crusaders must now think about the unfortunate inevitability of being without their core group of seniors in 2019.
Midfielders Andrew Ciancone and Jaime Nenclares both graduate in the spring, as does goalkeeper Jacob Chimento. Dallas will also lose defenders Eric Haigh, the thrilling flip thrower, and team captain Sean Taylor. Taylor was named 1st Team All-SCAC following the season.
“We’re not going to have our captain,” said McNamara. “That is going to be a pretty big spot to fill no matter what.”
While these seniors will be missed both on and off the pitch, the squad remains confident in their starting talent as well as their depth on the bench.
“We definitely have a lot of guys stepping up to the roles,” said DePetris.
The freshman class that includes forward Jose Martinez and defender Evan Birsinger certainly made themselves known during contests this year, and the incoming classes will only add to their talent.
“Next year is going to be a big year for us,” said McNamara. “I think we have the chance to beat anybody that comes through us.”