From Glory to Overtime Heartbreak: Men’s Soccer’s Unforgettable 2023 Journey

In a season filled with heart-stopping moments and unparalleled determination, the Neumann University men’s soccer team made their mark in university history. From the triumphant highs of clinching the 2023 Atlantic East Conference Championship to the nail-biting overtime clash that ended their NCAA Tournament run, this team showed resilience and the pursuit of excellence on the Division III collegiate soccer stage.

The men’s soccer team concluded their remarkable season with a triumphant victory in the 2023 Atlantic East Conference Championship. After finishing their regular season 7-4-3, Neumann took the No. 1 spot in the Atlantic East Conference, clinching a position in the postseason as well as a bye in the first round of playoffs.

Senior Captain Eddie Proud said, “We set the standard high and followed it. Winning the championship was a big goal of ours to begin.”

The team would face Marymount University in the Atlantic East Semifinals and take the victory in overtime with a corner kick goal from Landon Moroney, putting up a final of score of 2-1.

On November 4th, Neumann faced Cabrini University in a thrilling match. The Knights would secure a 1-0 win, with the decisive goal coming in the 21st minute. Jake Kuzmick’s tenacity earned the team a penalty kick, expertly converted by Eddie Proud, who later earned the MVP title.

The game was characterized by a scarcity of shots, with the Cavaliers managing 12 overall shots compared to the Knights’ nine. The defensive powers of both teams were evident as only five shots between them found the target. Neumann dominated the first half, outshooting Cabrini 7-3, showcasing their strategic approach and determination. Goalkeeper Seth Walker played a crucial role, making all three saves, including a pivotal stop against a Cavaliers’ attempt.

First year head coach for Neumann, Erik Temple, said, “To win a conference championship for the first time since 2018 and make the NCAA tournaments for the first time since 2014 was an accomplishment for our program. I know the experience of winning a championship will be remembered by everyone involved, and it was awesome to be a part of that moment.”

The journey continued as the men’s soccer team faced the formidable No. 2 University of Mary Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Despite being outshot 13-2 in the first half, the Knights displayed incredible resilience, entering halftime with a scoreless draw against the Eagles.

An article written by Mary Washington’s student press stated that this game was a “wakeup call” for the Eagles. When asked to respond to that description, Coach Temple said, “Mary Washington was a difficult opponent and their program's success for a long period of time speaks for itself. We wanted to go down there and show the country that we are tough enough to compete at the highest level.”

Coach Temple continued by stating, “Our mindset didn’t really change from the preparation of the week until the final whistle. We wanted to go down there and compete at a high level and put ourselves in a position to win the game. We played games throughout the season that we faced adversity, and we knew if we executed our game plan and played together, we could make the game difficult and give ourselves a chance to win the game.”

In the 72nd minute, Mary Washington broke the deadlock with a well-executed cross, taking a 1-0 lead. Neumann responded with determination, and in the 92nd minute, Gabriel Romero, seizing a perfect opportunity after a throw-in by Eddie Proud, scored his first collegiate goal to level the game at 1-1.

Proud commented on the work of Romero, stating, “The step he took from the last year to this year as a player and a leader showed. I thought he should've locked in first team, but he was a huge part of our success as a team.”

However, the dream of advancing further in the tournament slipped away in overtime. Within the first two minutes, the Eagles capitalized on another cross, securing a 2-1 lead. UMW added to their advantage with an own goal, resulting in a 3-1 score line. Despite a late effort by the Knights, including a shot that narrowly missed the crossbar, Neumann’s valiant run in the NCAA tournament came to an end.

“After the NCAA game I was upset with it being my last game but the whole time I felt as if it was a win. I thought we were in a win-win situation. Taking the #2 team to OT and being the first team to score on their home field in over a month shows a lot of things. I think the guys now have the experience of what it's like to win and what needs to be done to get there and I believe they can repeat the same steps to success,” said Proud.

As the Neumann University men’ soccer team reflected on their season, Coach Temple expressed pride in the group’s efforts and successes, “The entire team from the 11 players on the field to our entire bench were the players of the game… This team is so close, and they really enjoyed working hard and getting better each day”

Proud also commented, “The biggest aspect I thought we accomplished as a team was becoming a family. The motto was 29 as 1. It took a bit throughout the season, but we got there when it mattered most, and it brought out confidence and belief in all of us.”

Despite the disappointment of the tournament loss, the experience gained is seen as a catalyst for future success, “We have a few key pieces that we will need to replace with Eddie Proud and Seth Walker graduating,” said Coach Temple.

“The goal now is to build on the foundation we have built here this season and get better in the offseason to improve ourselves individually and collectively. We understand how difficult it is to repeat a conference championship and will work tirelessly to ensure we are the first team to repeat as Atlantic East Conference Champions in 2024.”

The journey may have had its ups and downs, but the spirit of the Knights remains unbroken, promising an exciting future for Neumann University men’s soccer.