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A Bittersweet Finale

Mens' Soccer celebrates a goal. Photo courtesy of MUAthletics.

Tyler Helsaback
Staff Writer

Millersville battled back after a struggling first half against 21st ranked Urbana, but it wasn’t enough as the Blue Knights escaped with a 1-0 win in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The loss ended the season for the Marauders, but overall they had a remarkable season.
The 2015 season was full of accomplishments all across the board for Millersville. They finished the year 14-5-1, nationally ranked at number 25, and the PSAC runner-ups. Most importantly, this team made it to the NCAA tournament with an incredibly young roster. Of the 24 players on the team, merely three were seniors (the rest of the team was made up of two juniors, five sophomores and an astounding 14 freshman).
As bright as the future looks, it will hurt Millersville to lose their star senior Jaime Vazquez. Vazquez’s 19 goals rank him fourth in the entire country, and also helped him on his way to winning PSAC player of the year. Millersville also boasted coach of the year (Steve Widdowson) and four All-PSAC players all together.
Millersville opened up the season in historic fashion, going 10-0-1. Along the way, they beat nationally ranked Bloomsburg and East Stroudsburg. Down the stretch, Millersville lost some heart-breakers, including a game against Mercyhurst in which they gave up the game ending goal in the final two minutes of the second overtime period, to watch the PSAC regular season title slip out of their hands. Despite some tough losses, this team had a certain persona, they got down early sometimes, but were usually able to crawl back and pull out a win. For example, in a contest against Pitt-Johnstown, with Millersville trailing 2-0 with ten minutes to go, Vazquez literally put the team on his back, scoring a hat trick in the final minutes to pull out a seemingly impossible victory.

Mens' Soccer celebrates a goal. Photo courtesy of MUAthletics.
Mens’ Soccer celebrates a goal. Photo courtesy of MUAthletics.

“Every single player came into the season ready to work,” said Vazquez. “We knew success wasn’t going to come easy so everybody worked hard.”
Success may not have come easy, but it did come for Millersville. The NCAA tournament berth was the fifth in the last eight years. They even earned home-field advantage, and had 850 passionate fans there cheering them on.
“It was one of the coolest experiences ever,” said Freshman Forward Danny Kline. “Even though we lost, I thought we played really well and it was exciting to play in front of our crowd at home.”
Kline will be one of 21 players expected to return next year, but Millersville will lose Vazquez, goalie Kohl Orner, and Forward Ben Johnston. Naturally, the loss to Urbana was the final game for these three players.
“It was very rewarding to be able to host one more game on our home field. Unfortunately, the game did not turn out the way we would have liked, but I am glad we were given the opportunity to play in front of our fans one last time,” said Vazquez.