A perennial problem for college coaches is losing good players to graduation. Although three of the men’s soccer team’s stars graduated last May, the Bears refuse to lose. In fact, 2005 may have been their best season since 2001: they posted an 11–4–2 record and won their eighth Ivy title in twelve years, then won their first postseason game. In addition, eight players won All-Ivy honors, and Scott Geppert ’09 was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
Geppert, the team’s leading scorer with fourteen points, typified this year’s team: young and confident. Not only did the young players bring a surfeit of raw talent, says Head Coach Mike Noonan, they changed the culture within the team by spreading the leadership around. “Instead of one or two or three leaders like we had last year,” Noonan says, “we had six or seven or eight leaders.”
Out front was defender Matt Britner ’07, who returned after being injured all last season. Britner filled the void left by All-American defender Jeff Larentowicz ’05 by starting all seventeen games and anchoring a defense that allowed the second-fewest goals and the fewest points in the league. Britner scored two game-winning goals, including one in overtime on October 22 that put the Bears in first place.
The team was 3–3 going into what Noonan believes was its most important win of the season, a 2–0 shutout of Virginia Commonwealth in September. That victory propelled the Bears into the Ivy season, during which the team excelled, going 5–1–1 despite the loss to injury of starting goalkeeper David Semenza ’07, who had admirably replaced All-New England netminder Chris Gomez ’05. With Semenza on the sideline the Bears turned to rookie Jarrett Leech ’09, whose only career start had come against Virginia Commonwealth. Leech allowed only two goals in the next five games, while the team went 4–0–1 and climbed as high as eighteenth in the national polls. With only two games left in the Ivy season, the Bears were 5–0 and in sole possession of first place.
A 2–1 loss to Yale on November 5, however, placed Brown in a three-way tie with the Elis and Dartmouth. Still, with the season’s final Ivy game scheduled against the Big Green in Providence the following weekend, the Bears could control their own fate. In that game, Brown took a 2–1 lead deep into the game, but, with 5:45 remaining, the Big Green scored. For the first time ever, three teams shared the soccer championship.
Although the tie cost the Bears an automatic spot at the NCAA tournament, the selection committee awarded them a home game against URI. The Bears fell behind, 1–0, early, but a perfect direct kick by Keith Caldwell ’06 tied the score. Ben Brackett ’07 converted off a set corner kick play in the third minute of overtime to send Brown into the second round and a matchup at the University of Maryland at College Park, the top seed in the tournament. Playing in frigid conditions, the Bears cooled off the red-hot Terps offense, but couldn’t score themselves, eventually falling, 1-0.
Fortunately, Brown loses only two consistent contributors to graduation this spring. The team’s top seven scorers, its two goalkeepers, and all its starting defense will be back next year, and there will be more rookies. This young team is likely to keep getting better.