As autumn turns to winter, and the leaves fall off New Haven’s elm trees, another soccer season will fade into the history books.
Just like the leaves, it cannot be stopped or avoided, and every bright-eyed rookie knows that, come four years, he’ll be saying goodbye too.
Maybe, during his four years, his team will have won a championship, or gone to a national tournament, or simply been a contender. But sometimes, that team will not be so lucky, and the dream of the championship ring will remain just that — a dream.
Such has been the case for the five-man class of 2010 on the men’s soccer team. They came in a strong class, talented, competitive. They wanted to repeat what the previous year’s team had achieved in 2005 and win an Ivy Championship.
“The goal every year is to win the Ivy League,” forward Kevin Pope ’10 said. “We didn’t do that the past four years.”
They fought hard, they created a sense of brotherhood that united the team, and they instituted a culture of competitiveness, of never giving up.
“I think one thing we really brought was camaraderie,” captain and defender Jordan Raybould ’10 said. “That’s one thing that’s important to being successful and making it an invaluable experience. A super important part of it for me was putting the guy next to you first and putting your team first.”
Goalkeeper Travis Chulick ’10 added, “I’d like to think that we always put the team before ourselves and made everyone closer.”
But in the end, it was not enough. The team walked off the field in Princeton, N.J., last Friday after a 4-0 loss defeated and upset. Another season and another chance to achieve their goals had passed them by.
For this team there has been no ring, no school-wide fan support, no fulfilling of dreams. There has just been what most Yale teams experience: a lot of hard work for only a few wins in the score books.
Looking briefly at their results column or league record over the past four seasons gives a false impression. The team has amassed 32 losses with just 23 wins. Taking a closer look, this team has tied 12 games, taken 18 to overtime and lost 19 by one point since 2006.
The story of the Elis’ success is about more than just their winning percentage.
When asked, they say that they have been unlucky, or they do not know why things went wrong, or they cite bad touches or bounces in the box. They rarely, if ever, lose because they did not try hard enough.
“I think [the senior class] has all shown in different ways a tremendous amount of resilience that has manifested itself in their character and their conduct and performance as leaders and mentors for those who will follow in their footsteps,” Tompkins said.
Over the last four weeks of the season, the team’s personality was marked by hard-fought victories and heart-breaking defeats.
They won a thrilling, emotional game against a decent Cornell team in the final seconds of the match for one of the most exciting wins the crowd at Reese Stadium had seen this season.
Three weeks later, they found it nearly impossible to connect a pass, let alone score a goal, against Princeton in a rain-dampened, nationally-televised game.
“Mentally I don’t think we were prepared,” forward Brad Rose ’11 said. “We collectively weren’t playing well and weren’t passing and moving the ball like we know we can.”
Thus, another season for another Yale sports team came to a close, relegating this year’s troubles and achievements to memory.
The seasons will change, the seniors will graduate and leave their playing days well behind them. But the graduating class’ impact on the team will live on and their experiences will forever exist in their own memories.
For every team, a new class will arrive with its own dreams to fulfill and obstacles to overcome. The players, like the leaves, will change, but each new soccer season brings with it what every new sports season does — hope.