By: Sammy Clough, Sports Editor
Furman men’s soccer just completed a season to remember, winning the Southern Conference tournament and defeating their first round matchup in the NCAA tournament. The team became SoCon tournament champions for the first time since they won the tournament in 2015.
Highlighted by multiple come-from-behind victories during the course of the season, senior captain Danny Kierath believes the fun-loving attitude of the team played a major role in their success. “This was a very fun group,” says Kierath, “guys were there to have fun and everyone [on the team] really loves each other.”
Winning most likely makes it easier to have fun, and the Paladins did a lot of winning this season. One of the most dramatic wins came in the SoCon tournament semifinal game against ETSU. Tied at 1-1 in overtime, senior Laurence Wyke headed a corner kick into the back of the net to give the Paladins a 2-1 victory in the 98th minute. “We never quit all season,” remembers Kierath, “we always thought we were going to win.” The thrilling overtime victory sent the Paladins to the conference finals with a chance to punch their ticket to the national tournament.
Furman faced UNCG for the conference championship, and came out of the gates early. Junior Emery May scored two goals early, and the Paladins added another goal late in the game to give them a decisive 3-0 victory. Going into the SoCon tournament, the Paladins had one focus and that was to to win. “We’re the best team [in the tournament],” Kierath told his teammates before the tournament, “be the best and nothing less.”
Kierath, a senior captain and midfielder from Loganville, Ga., is one of the few members of the team that was a part of the 2015 SoCon victory. His experience fearlessly led the Paladins throughout the season, and after the season ended said that he “couldn’t have dreamt a better ending to my [Furman] career.”
Following the SoCon tournament victory, the Paladins traveled to Wilmington, N.C. to face UNCW in the first round of the national tournament. The two teams were deadlocked at 0 at the end of regulation and overtime periods. The game was sent to penalty kicks in front of a raucous UNCW crowd in the rain. Redshirt sophomore Ben Hale had a diving save in the third round of penalty kicks, and Furman netted every one of their penalty opportunities to give them the 5-3 shootout victory. The win in the national tournament asserted that Furman wasn’t just looking to participate on the national stage, but showed that they could come away with a victory on enemy soil.
Furman advanced to the second round where they were defeated by Virginia 2-0 after two late goals from the Cavaliers. However, Kierath and the Paladins kept their heads up and remembered the season as a success. “We won together all year,” Kierath reminices, “we had resiliency and truly became a family.”
The 2018 Furman men’s soccer team will be remembered as one of the most fun Paladin teams, and they will be forever honored by a brand new SoCon champion banner that will hang in Stone Stadium.