Soccer's Spectacular Season
By Kevin Shepke
As time wound down in North Park’s second round matchup with UW–Oshkosh in the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Tournament Saturday, Nov. 13, head coach John Born was disappointed that his team was about to lose 2–0 to end the 2010 season, but he was also grateful for the ride they had.
“Unlike some of our past championship seasons, this year was harder to predict. We knew we had talent coming into the year, but with so many new players I was uncertain if we would have enough leadership and team chemistry,” the 12-year coach said. “This year was quite a journey and I was very proud of the way the team came together and grew.”
For the first time in the program’s history, the North Park men’s soccer team won a first round game in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Hope College 1–0. They defeated Wheaton College in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin tournament championship for the third time in four tournament meetings. But Born couldn’t point to a time in the season when he knew this year’s team would produce results like this.
“In all honesty, I think every season is going to be special. I expect us to win. Why not?,” he said. “We have great players, great facilities, a fantastic campus, and die-hard fans. We do not know what the future brings. Hopefully, we can not only attain the level of success of the 2010 team, but surpass it next year.”
At one point in the season, North Park lost back-to-back games, falling to Wheaton College at home, and Berry College of Georgia. Some thought that the Vikings had lost their composure, but Born thought differently, and so did his team. They went on to win seven of their last eight games before the final tournament game.
“We knew we had the talent, we just had to get healthy and come together,” Born said. “Although we were new to each other, we had a many gifted players. Good players recognize when something special is about to happen and they fully commit to the season at hand.”
Earning a spot in the CCIW postseason tournament after finishing 3–0–1 in the Final Four conference games gave the Vikings the opportunity to face the Wheaton’s Thunder for the championship. They didn’t back down from the chance. “All of us were very confident going into that game. We knew Wheaton was a very good team, however when we lost to them earlier in the year, we felt the goals they scored were because of our own mistakes,” Born said. “All of us knew that if we cleaned that up, we would have a great chance of winning.
“For some reason, we have always played them better at their place than at home, so I was pretty confident before and during the entire game...even all the way until the last 45 seconds when they scored the tying goal. At that point we challenged the team to make history. We told them you have the chance to make this victory one of the most dramatic in North Park history. Let’s go out and do it. And they did,” he said.
The win capped off a memorable season for the North Park community, full of twists and turns along the way. The coach underscored the important role each man played in this winning season. “It takes an entire team to commit to success and fully reach their potential. I am obviously proud of the players on the field who brought us to the second round of the NCAA tournament,” Born said. “However, I am equally proud of the reserve players who came to practice every day with a great focus and intensity. It is because of them that we had success this year.”