Maroon 2021 Full Season Recap/National Tournament: Plus, Player Awards!
Welcome back, Gopher fans!
An overall young squad led by a few key senior leaders brought about a successful season for the maroon squad, picking up some key victories in regional and national competition. In addition, several young players gained experience, guided by some fantastic senior leadership. Let's take it back...
It all began back in August with a tough pre-season schedule which saw Maroon fight hard against MIAC reserve teams of St. Olaf, Bethel, Macalester, and Hamline. Maroon earned a crushing win against Bethel, a draw against Hamline, and dropping 2 tightly fought contests to some very skilled teams in St. Olaf and Macalester.
Maroon trained hard over the coming weeks and entered the regional qualifier tournament in a very tough group featuring Minnesota - Duluth, St. Thomas, and Iowa State. Maroon rose to the occasion and pulled out a tremendous performance to take down St. Thomas 2-0, putting themselves in good standing to make it out of the group. The Gophers dropped a cagey affair to Iowa State 1-0, but rebounded the next day with a 6-1 victory over Minnesota Duluth to claim a spot in the qualifier match. Pitted against their fellow Gophers, Maroon was unable to win, but a successful tournament nonetheless to advance from the group stage.
As there was no regional tournament to attend for Maroon, they played a series of exhibitions to stay sharp for the upcoming National tournament. They had a dominant 9-0 victory over UNI, a team to which they had previously lost in the buildup to the regional qualifier, and notched a pair of victories over Macalester College reserves with a 1-0 triumph and a 5-4 shootout win. They also defeated a couple local Men’s league teams with some impressive play in the final buildup to the National tournament.
As the Maroon squad arrived in Foley, Alabama, they had a brutally tough group to face in the Men’s open division. Group E saw them come up against Louisiana State, Penn State, and Virginia Tech. As only the winner of each group advanced, the Gophers knew it was a tough task ahead of them to qualify.
Minnesota Maroon vs. Virginia Tech: Group E Game #1
Opening their National tournament bid against Virginia Tech, the Gophers started slower than they would have liked. A host of lineup changes meant the gophers struggled to progress the ball forward, even though they were the better side. A nice lofted finish and a late run into the box saw Virginia Tech take a 2-0 lead, and the Gophers will have been upset that their concentration let them down. Senior forward Nathan Keller earned a goal back in the second half after Cole Kiernan’s deflected shot was picked up and slotted home, but it was too little too late as the Gophers fell 2-1 in their opening match.
Minnesota Maroon vs. Penn State: Group E Game #2
Facing what most Maroon players would describe as the best team they’d faced all year, Penn State gave Maroon another tough contest in game 2. Maroon struggled to create any definitive chances against an airtight Nittany Lion defense, and the opponent picked up two goals from a driven cross that found the feet of the striker, and a tap-in to take Penn State up 2-0. Like the first game, Maroon showed fight and dug a goal back as Freshman midfielder Richard McCoy lofted a ball over the backline that was brought down and fired home by Keller once again. But the game ended rather unceremoniously as a suspect penalty was awarded to Penn State and subsequently converted, ending any hope of a Gopher comeback.
Minnesota Maroon vs. Louisiana State: Group E Game #3
In their final game of the group, playing just for pride, the Gophers seemed to play much more freely and put out a tremendous performance against LSU. Less than 10 minutes in to the contest, sophomore defender Jennings Torgelsen showed outstanding technique to volley home from 20 yards out, and Keller bagged his third of the tournament two minutes later after a lovely slotted finish. The Gophers went into halftime comfortable in their lead and controlled the pace of play into the second half. The Gophers would add 2 more cultured finishes both from the feet of freshman mid Zach Ziegert, ending Minnesota’s season with a convincing 4-0 victory and finishing second in group E.
Final Thoughts and Player of the Season Awards
As the book closes on another Maroon season, they can look ahead to next year knowing that they’re capable of cementing themselves as one of the top teams in the region. This is a squad that likely has the most potential we've ever seen in the Maroon team, so tread carefully Region V.
PLAYERS OF THE SEASON:
Voted by the maroon squad, we present the 2021 players of the season:
Best Goalkeeper: Ryan Everhart
This award might seem like a default, but take nothing away from the freshman goalkeeper. Earning the spot straight from tryouts, Everhart turned in some scintillating preseason performances and carried that momentum across the season to turn in an impressive first year. Keep your eyes peeled for this one in the future…
Best Defender: Zach Nebbia
The sophomore defender became a stalwart in the center of defense shortly after tryouts were done. His aerial ability, bravery, and strength made him a nightmare for opposing forwards to take on. Still early in his college career, there’s more to come from Nebbia and Gopher fans should be excited for it.
Best Midfielder and MVP: Hossam Halaweish
The one and only big Hoss closes out his college career in style. Ever calm on the pitch, Halaweish delivered one complete performance after another in the center of the park. A great leader on the pitch as well, his presence in Gopher Soccer will be sorely missed next season. An MVP award is the perfect way to end it.
Best Forward: Nathan Keller
Another leader for Maroon, Keller was the top goalscorer for Maroon this season, capping his college career with 3 goals in 3 national tournament games. Keller’s moment of the season is undoubtedly his solo effort to put Maroon up 2-0 over St. Thomas in the regional qualifier, but a steady goalscoring presence throughout the season means it's a season to remember for the big striker.
Rookie of the Year: Zach Ziegert
A promising debut campaign for one of the Gopher’s brightest young stars. Playing in a midfield rotation early on, it wasn’t long before Ziegert established himself firmly in the starting lineup at the #10 role, and he only got better as the season wore on. Capping his season with a tremendously well-taken brace against LSU, those goals are a good sign of things to come from the freshman midfielder.
Congrats to all of Maroon on a great season!
Ski-U-Mah and Go Gophers!