North Central Men’s Soccer Season Recap: A young team reaches new heights for the program with a conference title and NCAA Tournament berth.
In a special season for a very young North Central men’s soccer team, it was fitting that the most exciting chapters were written by one of the team’s youngest players: Freshman forward Jaziel Enriquez.
Enzo Fuschino, Head Coach: “He is a special player he’s got natural talent that I cannot describe and he’s just an unbelievable player. He’s been resulting games for us. He’s our second leading scorer, and and again, he’s only a freshman, so he has a lot of room for improvement and he will.”
Enriquez scored the winning goal in both the CCIW semifinal and the CCIW final as the Cardinals won their third conference championship and fifth berth to the NCAA Division III men’s soccer tournament.
EF: “Yeah. I don’t know if I can describe the feeling at this moment. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s it’s a wonderful feeling. I knew from day one when I had this group at the first day of practice that there was a special group and they performed very consistently for 20 games. Only one loss, which I don’t think it was deserved. But you know, it was a learning lesson. Having such a young team, I think this is just the beginning of a of a something special happening here in North Central.”
This season saw the Cardinals win their first nine games of the season and remained unbeaten for their first fifteen. They dominated their opponents, outsourcing them 40 – 7 in the regular season. But the decisive game was a tight one against Wheaton, who they had beaten handily earlier in the year. The Thunder put up a fight, but in the end it was again the Cardinals who came out on top.
Zach Lass, Junior Defender: “First time we played, I mean, credit to them, they’re a great team. We beat them 5-1 the first time I played them, but it was a lot closer than that. You know, and we had a game plan going in, try and counter them, get them on their back foot. And we got lucky and we got one in and. After that, I mean, we defended like crazy, I think we played as well as we wanted to. We’ve been working on it all practice. Both teams Wesleyan and Wheaton their great teams. I mean, it was an honor to play both of them. They could have gone either way, both games. So it was great. “
Both the freshman and sophomores, who make up a majority of the roster, were playing their first college seasons due to the pandemic. The captain, Johnny Kraemer, is a transfer. It’s impressive that they had much success at all, let alone the new heights to which they’ve already taken the program.
EF: “Never happened before here, so I mean this this was a year of many firsts. You know, most wins, most points in in conference play, first ever conference final hosted here and the first ever championship. So now again, I said before, the sky’s the limit. Our first game might be a little difficult because we might be missing a couple of people because of cards. But again, we every year. I remember my first year coach and somebody one of the older coaches told me that you play for the Promise Land and the Promise Land is the NCAA tournament. So it’s a great feeling and the excitement I it’s unbelievable. The guys are just very excited and ready to play, you know? And on Monday, we’ll find out, you know, where and who we’re playing. And I know they’ll be ready.”
The fairytale season unfortunately came to an end for the Cardinals in the first round of the NCAA tournament, losing to Loras College. But with no minutes logged by seniors this year, the entirety of this roster could return next year and know that despite this first taste of success that they have so much left to do.