Muhlenberg’s men’s soccer team capped off their season by defending their Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship. Although the Mules were hoping for an NCAA tournament bid this time around, ending their season with a trophy is a victory in and of itself.
Making the feat all the more impressive is that the team had not played since the conclusion of the 2019 season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. An accomplishment not just for the team, but more importantly the seniors who haven’t been on the field since their sophomore year.
The Mules started off the game strong with a goal in the first 11 minutes from Tarin Morris ‘23, assisted by Taylan Akdag ‘23 ECAC MVP. Rutgers-Newark answered two minutes later with a penalty kick, but the Mules were not deterred. Chris Richards ‘23 and Akdag both scored in the 78th minute to clinch the ECAC championship.
With two ECAC chips under the rising seniors’ belts, the team has experienced leaders. As they enter the offseason, their legs are sure to be hungry for that elusive playoff berth.
Of course, the end of the season is bittersweet for all senior classes, but that is particularly true in the case of the class of 2022. While they lost out on the opportunity to play during their junior year, the group made the most of their final season and took on the role of ‘elder statesmen’ despite it being their first time on the pitch together as upperclassmen.
The group’s successful season as well as their run in the tournament also seems to have made its mark on the graduating class. “My favorite memory from soccer at Muhlenberg was winning ECAC this year. It was really special to end my career with a win and to defend our title, on a personal note, one that stands out was scoring a goal to win the game in the quarterfinals of ECACs” said Noam Davidov ‘22.
While the end of the ECACs signifies the end of the seniors’ collegiate career, many of them are optimistic about the team as well as the immediate future of the program. “I feel very confident about the state of the team,” said Mark Walter ‘22. “We have a very deep program filled with underclassmen that are motivated and determined to bring Muhlenberg back to the top of the Centennial Conference.”
The team’s success in ECACs was undoubtedly exciting for the members of the 2024 and 2025 classes, as both played their first collegiate soccer season. The group’s younger members seem to be looking to use the lessons learned from this season as a springboard for next year. Fortunately, they are in good hands as the class of 2023 has been praised for their leadership abilities by many of their departing teammates.
The leadership capabilities are not limited to the rising senior class, as it has become evident that the group’s younger members are also taking the initiative. “Chris Richards [‘23] and Tay Akdag [‘23] will be great leaders for the program next year. I also think that the younger guys on the team such as Zach Mikuta [‘24], Caleb Herring [‘24], Evan Schlotterbeck [‘25] and Kevin Adams [‘25] are crucial pieces to the puzzle and will hold the team to a very high standard,” Davidov added.