Men’s soccer wins Heartland Conference

Sophomore Terry Stewart dribbles the ball up the field.

Sophomore Terry Stewart dribbles the ball up the field.

Kayla Meyer

The St. Edward’s University men’s soccer team won the 2009 Heartland Conference Title after defeating St. Mary’s University 4-1 on Sunday, Nov. 8.

This is the first Heartland Conference Title the team has won since 2000. The Hilltoppers have since been battling conference foe, University of the Incarnate Word, for the conference title. St. Edward’s has been clinching second place by just one point each season. This year, Incarnate Word (9-7-3, 7-3 HC) finished second in conference.

“We had a lot of downs and ups, but to win conference for the first time in nine years has meant a lot to me and the guys on the team,” senior Beau Grantier said.

The Hilltoppers (8-8-2, 8-2 HC) had a rough start at the beginning of the season, tallyinga 0-6-2 overall record for the first eight games of the fall season. This was mostly due to injuries, ineligibility and playing six of the eight games against nationally ranked teams.

However, when conference play began, the Hilltoppers put their overall record aside.”I am very proud of all the guys of the team. Starting off with a 0-6-2 record was very frustrating, and it could have been easy for the guys on the team to get down on themselves and give up,” Grantier said. “However, all the guys on the team worked together and fought hard the rest of the season, which led to us finishing first in conference. This was the first time in nine years that we won conference. So, I am honored to have played with all the guys on the team and am excited for the future of St. Edward’s soccer program.”

Grantier along with seniors Josh Nannen, John Calandro, Kevin Klaus, AJ Prebensen, Ezual Lewis and Brandin Parras, along with graduate students Scott Strickland and Bryan Van Cura, will be leaving the team this year.

“We will truly miss all nine of the players who have exhausted their eligibility, but we also have some very capable players who will step up next season and do very well,” Young said. “The coaching staff will get an opportunity to work with the remaining players over the spring season, and I am looking forward to see who the next set of leaders will be for 2010.

We also have five players who couldn’t compete this past season who would have seen a lot of playing time, and I am eager to see what they can do as well in 2010.”

The St. Edward’s men’s soccer team needed to close the season out with a win to clinch the Heartland Conference Title and they did just that with their win against St. Mary’s (5-12-1, 3-6-1 HC).

Klaus was able to put the Hilltoppers on the board early in the game with a goal in the 15th minute. Nannen put the second goal on the board from a long pass by Strickland. This was

Nannen’s fourth goal in the last seven games, three of which were game-deciding.The team was able to tally one more goal by freshman JR Ellis before the half. This was Ellis’ first career goal for the Hilltoppers.

A penalty kick in the second half would bring the Hilltoppers to a 4-0 lead. Up to take the kick was Calandro, who tallied his first goal of the season. St. Mary’s scored their only goal of the game in the 73rd minute.

Even with the Heartland Conference Title, unfortunately this was the last match of the season for the Hilltoppers. The team was not ranked high enough in regionals to go any further.

“In NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer, unlike every other sport at St. Edward’s, winning the conference championship doesn’t automatically get you into the NCAA tournament, so we just need to get back out recruiting, work with our current players and put together another demanding schedule like we did this past year,” Young said. “But next year, we just need to win more games earlier on in the year and continue our success in the Heartland Conference.”