The Goshen College women’s soccer team was hit with a killer one-two punch this past week.Playing two of the top four teams in the nation, the Leafs were trounced by a score of 6-0 twice in one week. Goshen fell first to No. 2 Marian University on Saturday, and then last night to No. 4 Spring Arbor University.
“[I’m] never happy with a loss,” said Goshen head coach Justin Crew. “But I’m really happy with the effort and the energy.” Crew had strong praise for his players, calling them “focused” and stating that they played “with a sense of urgency.”
“There’s a reason they’re number four in the country,” Crew said after the Spring Arbor match. “There’s a reason they’ve won two national titles, so I was really proud of our efforts tonight: that fight, that focus, that urgency.”
Goshen, now eighth in the Crossroads League with a 1-7 conference record, plays 0-7-1 Huntington on Saturday night. The Leafs control their own destiny: with either a win or a draw, Goshen clinches a playoff berth.
“We’re playing for the playoffs on Saturday,” Crew said. “It’s always the minimum goal [of the season] to get in. So we take the positives and we build on it for Saturday.”
Saturday’s match, 7 p.m. at home, will feature the team’s senior night celebration before kickoff. The ceremony to honor seniors in their final home game will start at roughly 6:45.
Meanwhile, the Goshen men celebrated their senior night last Saturday against Marian. In a drastic blow to the team’s tournament hopes, though, the Maple Leafs fell 4-1.
Marian opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, as Alan Tenorio picked up a loose ball from Nate Van Keulen inside the box and fired it past Leafs keeper Matias da Fonseca. Just two minutes later, the Knights picked up their second tally as Van Keulen outran the entire Leafs back line on a through ball from defender Valentin Neuhold.
Ten minutes later, the Leafs answered with senior Henrique Eichenberger taking the team’s first shot. With a blast from the right side, Eichenberger found the back of the net to cut the Knights’ lead in half in the 34th minute.
“It’s been so stressful for me,” Eichenberger said. “It’s been a difficult season…that was my first goal. So I felt so happy — it relieved so much pressure.”
The rest of the match, though, was all Marian. Eichenberger added another shot on goal with ten minutes in the second half for Goshen’s only other attempt on target, but he was denied without much effort from Marian keeper Alvaro Ruedo. Marian responded by putting a shot of their own on goal, but theirs snuck past da Fonseca for a 3-1 lead.
Tempers ran high for the entire game, with the teams combining for seven yellow cards. Marian had the last laugh, though, as Sebastian Gonzalez broke through the Leafs’ defense to go one-on-one with da Fonseca in the last five seconds. Gonzalez scored on what ended up as the final play of the game with 89:59 on the clock.
Before the game, Goshen recognized its seniors as part of its Senior Night program. Joining Eichenberger and da Fonseca in their final year are Jonathan Aaron, Ryan Almeida, Ruam Barbosa, Ayaan John, Wendo Kisila, Luiz Matteus Pontes, Vitor Romero dos Santos, and Jannik Schoske.
“It was very special,” Eichenberger said. “I played here for four years and will never play again here. So the night was special, and it made that goal so much more special for me.”
Goshen is searching for a tournament berth to give the group one last chance to make a run. This loss, however, makes their playoff hunt significantly more challenging — and last night’s 4-0 loss to Spring Arbor dashed tournament hopes even further.
The team is now tied with Marian for the eighth and final seed in the Crossroads League tournament, but with Saturday’s loss, Marian wins the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Marian draws on Saturday, Goshen needs to win at Huntington, a team that is receiving votes in the national poll. If Marian loses, the Leafs only need a draw — but with a Knights win, the Leafs are out of the postseason no matter their Huntington result. Both games are at 7 p.m.
With the eleven seniors graduating, the Leafs’ fall is hitting especially hard.
“Soccer is my life, my passion,” Eichenberger said. “And it’s been very difficult for me personally…we just weren’t successful in the past four years.”
But even through the sting of defeat, Eichenberger is thankful for his time at Goshen.
“It was very difficult, but it made me grow. They say that we learn when we are in the low. When you win, it’s nice, but when you’re in the low, you’ve got to grow. So it made me grow in so many ways…it was a very difficult journey, but I made families forever.”