Two years ago, senior Sean McLaughlin was part of a team that did not give him much hope for his final two years at Millersville.
But he and the university’s soccer program found a way to make his senior year something he would never forgot.
Accompanied by his fellow seniors and other teammates that he has grown to love, McLaughlin and the team went where even he thought might not have been possible.
“I would have never pictured a season like this two years ago, but we just gave our best efforts every day, speaking volumes to our team’s true character,” McLaughlin said
After a rather surprising season in 2007, Millersville came out the gate red hot this season, winning six straight games.
Their first loss came via Mercyhurst, but it was the following game that may have opened the eyes of supporters.
A 4-1 victory over division foes East Stroudsburg, who was ranked fourth in the nation heading into the game, was the major highlight of the early season.
The Marauders achieved something they only believed they could do, and found themselves ranked in the top ten in the nation.
This was the first time in Millersville history that the soccer program achieved this high of a ranking, but it is not the only school record they would set this past season.
They not only reached the NCAA Division II Tourney, they hosted and won the Atlantic regional after securing the first seed in the region.
“We won the division and our main concern was the PSAC title,” Coach Steve Widdowson said “We lost the title game, but went on to bigger and better things. These achievements from this year will be remembered for years to come.”
Millersville’s season did not end on the highest note, however. In the elite eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament, the Marauders hosted Northern Kentucky.
It was a cold damp night, and the hundreds of students that piled in to root for the black and gold were in full voice.
Northern Kentucky appeared to be dangerous on set pieces, and finished one off late in the first half, to put the visitors on top 1-0.
McLaughlin got the team fired up in front of the home fans when he got in a confrontation on the near sideline. The pumping of his arms and the passion in his yell seemed to inject life into the home side.
Shortly after, sophomore Shane Seabrook dramatically scored a brilliant header sent in from McLaughlin with under 10 minutes left in regulation.
“You don’t know what it feels like, to know the fans have your back, unless you’re in our shoes,” McLaughlin said “ It’s what gives us adrenaline.”
The game stayed deadlocked and through overtime and continued into a shootout.
Millersville fell tragically short of flying to Florida for the final four, when the game resulted in a 5-4 score line in PKs.
“It was an extremely good game that was relatively even throughout,” Widdowson said. “On the stat sheet they may have had more shots, but I believe we had the more quality chances.”
The season really did happen, so no need for McLaughlin or his teammates to pinch themselves.
It did not end on the highest note, but like McLaughlin said, “Looking back, we were in it until the last possible kick.” This is a kick that two years ago was merely a dream for some of these Millersville soccer players.
“I am so proud of what we have done as a university and a program, and we have no reason to hang our heads,” Widdowson said.