A talented yet underrated St. Olaf men’s soccer team took to the pitch on Nov. 7 at Rolf Melby Field to take on the University of St. Thomas in the MIAC Playoff Championship game, winning 2-0 in front of a raucous home crowd. The win advances the team to its third Division III NCAA tournament appearance, the last being in 2011. The Oles became the first team in MIAC history to win the playoff championship as a fourth seed.
A strong showing on both sides of the ball, including outstanding goalkeeping, saw the Oles cruise to an impressive win over the sixth seeded Tommies. The Oles were led up front by Aaron Stets ’16 and Jens Undlin ’16, with Stet’s first half finish slipping past the Tommy goalkeeper after an impressive corner assist from Aaron Miller ’17. Undlin’s goal came in the 67th minute, adding a cushion to the Oles’ early lead. The two teams were equal in terms of shots on goal, but Ole keeper Ben Braman ’17 finished the match with seven saves and managed to keep the shutout intact. This was Braman’s fifth shutout of the year, adding to his total of 15 shutouts in his career as an Ole. St. Thomas struggled to break through the Ole backline throughout the game, and with St. Olaf forwards continuously pounding shots towards goal, the game quickly became controlled by the Oles.
The Oles’ first round matchup in the NCAA tournament will be against the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (11-3-3), the current WIAC champions, on Nov. 14 at Macalester College in St. Paul.
St. Olaf will need to capitalize on both sides of the ball if it hopes to beat a strong Oshkosh team, and chances on goal will most likely come at a premium. Despite a strong showing of forward play this year, the Oles will have to look to their midfielders to balance gameplay as the competition becomes much more seasoned.
Despite finishing the regular season in fourth place in the MIAC, the Oles come into the tournament with strong momentum. The Oles boast strong and experienced forwards up front as well as a physical backline, and both will be needed as the Oles attempt to push their way into further rounds of the tournament as underrated underdogs.