Men’s Soccer in NCAA Sweet 16
The men’s soccer team faces off against a Swarthmore team coached by Conn alum.
Connecticut College (12-3-3) will travel to Pennsylvania to face Swarthmore in the third round of the NCAA Division III men’s soccer tournament at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Clothier Field Stadium.
The Camels reached the Sweet 16 after victories against Johns Hopkins, 1-0 in the second round, and Catholic University, who the Camels defeated 2-1 in the first round.
“Our team views this match as another test for ourselves against a very good team,” said Reuben Burk, the men’s head coach.
“We view this game as another chance to prove to everyone how good we really can be. It’s a chance to show that if we play our best, we can win anywhere in the country.”
The team’s appearance in the Sweet 16 marks only the fourth time a Conn program has advanced to the third round of an NCAA tournament in any sport. Conn’s last team to advance this far came in 1999 when men’s basketball advanced to the national semifinal round.
“This match means a lot for us in regards to where we want the program to be,” said keeper AJ Marcucci ’21, who was named to the 2019 All-NESCAC first team. Marcucci was the 2018 NESCAC Player of the Year and was 2017 NESCAC Rookie of the Year.
“If we can beat Swarthmore on Saturday, we can consider ourselves an Elite 8 program in the nation. It will be a remarkable achievement not just for us as a team, but also for the Connecticut College community as a whole.
“And we aren’t finished just yet,” Marcucci said.
The match will see Conn pitted against a familiar face in Swarthmore head coach Eric Wagner ’88 P’20. Wagner played soccer at Conn, and helped the Camels earn the College’s first-ever Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship in 1988. He took over Swarthmore’s soccer program in 2002. In his 16 seasons, Wagner’s teams have posted a 177-102-39 record, and have had 18 postseason tournament appearances. Wagner also met his wife, Leslee Carlson ’89, at Conn, and one of his sons, Camden Wagner ’20, is a current student. His other son, Nick, goes to Swarthmore.
“We are certainly looking forward to this weekend,” Wagner said. “Conn has been in our lives from the very beginning. Conn hats, t-shirts, jerseys and pint glasses inhabit our house, as much as the photos of Camels who attended our wedding and are still some of our best friends in the world.
“And Swarthmore has been our home for 17-plus years now, so Garnet is the color of choice in our lives,” he added.
On a personal level, Wagner says it’s a serendipitous stroke of luck to be facing Conn.
“The blood, sweat and tears that I have poured into both of these programs since first setting foot on Harkness Green in the fall of 1984 cannot be calculated by any metric. I’m so proud of both my alma mater’s and my Garnet Soccer’s families for what we have accomplished, and this match-up for me will be a celebration of everything we’ve worked for.
“I wish for a fantastic, hard-fought, exciting match, and may one of us go on to win the National Championship,” Wagner added.
The winner of the Conn-Swarthmore match will face either No. 5 Tufts or No. 11 Washington & Lee at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, at Clothier Field Stadium.
A fan bus will depart from Conn to Swarthmore on Saturday at 7:45 a.m. Also, there will be an NCAA watch party in the Hall of Fame room in the Luce Field House at 1:00 p.m. Free Pizza to those who attend.
For more information, go to camelathletics.com.