The men’s soccer team has seen nothing but success since advancing to the Centennial Conference playoffs. The team recently traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Nov. 4 to compete against the seventh-ranked team in the nation. In order to win against the dominant Franklin & Marshall College Diplomats, the Mules needed to trust in their training, ability to work as a team and the strong bond they have cultivated. One of the team’s captains, Josh Bordwick ‘23, described this closeness that the team forged, which was able to shine through on the field. “The brotherhood exists beyond the field. This team is not just a team on the field, but a family. Our bond and relationships go far beyond just ‘teammates’ and have truly morphed into family.”
The ability to work as a team is clear by how strong they have been competing. The team has maintained a clean sheet in the playoffs, averaging only 1.1 goals against (GA) throughout the 20 game regular season. Additionally, Trevor Mikuta ‘26 scored the Mules first goal just one minute and three seconds into their game against F&M.
‘Berg was able to go into this important game with the determination that led them to victory. Bordwick reflects, “resilience and desire was key for our squad against F&M. Going out and scoring first to set the tone allowed us to play our style and force F&M out of their comfort zone. We showed an incredible amount of resilience to keep a clean sheet on the road against the #7 team in the nation, and the desire to push each other to victory brought us there.”
“The brotherhood exists beyond the field. This team is not just a team on the field, but a family. Our bond and relationships go far beyond just ‘teammates’ and have truly morphed into family.”Josh Bordwick ‘23
This desire for victory was clear from the minute the first goal was scored by Mikuta. Mikuta was assisted by Taylan Akdag ‘23, who has a team-leading seven assists this season overall. The second goal was scored by Chris Richards ‘23, the leading goal scorer for the team with 11 this year, assisted by David Goldstein ‘23. In addition to these already impressive stats, Goalie Ben Mulford ‘26 saved seven shots on goal, refusing to let the Diplomats score.
After the phenomenal win against F&M, the men’s soccer team was eager to continue on their winning streak as they faced the 19th ranked team in the nation, Johns Hopkins. Bordwick described the mindset of the team going into their third playoff game. “We are just focusing on ourselves and controlling what we can control. We know the opposition we are playing like to dominate in terms of possession, but we can’t focus and change what we do because of them. Do you have to adapt as a team? Of course, but we really want to focus on our strengths going into this game. And, of course, the main goal is winning the Centennial Conference Championship.”
With this exact focus, control and ability to adapt, the team was able to achieve their goal of winning the Centennial Conference Championship for the first time since 2014. Muhlenberg scored the extraordinary win to achieve the Conference Championship title, beating Johns Hopkins 5-4 in the penalty kicks after preventing the Blue Jays from scoring all game. The anticipation of who was going to take home the Conference trophy was over when the winning penalty kick was scored by Jake Mendelson ‘25 after a scoreless tie, securing the Mules a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Men’s soccer was able to continue their pattern of never giving up a single goal in the playoffs thanks to strong defense and goalie Mulford jumping to turn away the ball at every chance, 20 in all, demonstrating his quick reflexes and application of his coaches’ pointers. Richards and Akdag were among those with successful kicks into the net during penalty kicks.
The win against the Blue Jays led Muhlenberg to become the first fifth seeded team in Centennial Conference history to win the championship. This will be the first time the Mules have won the Centennial Conference Tournament since 2014.
With all the anticipation of a game so competitive, a number of Muhlenberg students traveled to Baltimore to cheer on the team, including Rachel Saxton ‘25, who shared her experience at the game and excitement to be able to attend it. “This opportunity doesn’t happen often so I think I speak for everyone when I say I wanted to be there in support of the team and our school. It shows that we are a very supportive community and that we want nothing but the best for each other.”
With the amount of success that the men’s soccer team has seen over the past weekend, the crowd radiated with enthusiasm as the final goal was scored. Saxton reflected on the chance to watch such an accomplishment for Muhlenberg. “First of all it still doesn’t feel real that I was there to be honest! I would say that everyone was on the edge of their seat for this game. Not only watching 90 minutes of play but also 20 minutes of overtime and penalty kicks it was thrilling to watch that final goal go in. From the crowd everyone was screaming, clapping, jumping and cheering and so I would say there was a lot of energy during the game and a lot of positive emotions showing throughout the time we were there. No one gave up or gave in on the field and in the stands which was awesome!”
Now it’s onto Nationals. The NCAA tournament features the top 64 of the 408 Division III men’s soccer teams. The tournament starts Nov. 11 in Lexington, Virginia, and ends at the final four in Salem, Virginia in the beginning of December. Looking forward to their game on Nov. 12 in Lexington, VA the Mules are ready to continue on their winning streak against Case Western Reserve University and bring home more success.