By James Ashcroft
Last Tuesday, the UW-Milwaukee men’s soccer team played its last game for the 2012 season as they went down 1-0 to Valparaiso.
It was also the end of an era for the three senior players; John Shakon, Jamie Bladen and Cody Banks, who saw their collegiate soccer careers come to an end in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament.
The Tournament berth came on the back of a hugely successful campaign under first year Head coach Kris Kelderman. Kelderman steered the Panthers to an overall record of 8-8-2 and a formidable home record of 6-1-0. Despite the fortress that was the home of the Panthers, it would be another day on the road that brought an end to the season.
Having beaten Valparaiso the previous Saturday 2-1 to clinch a spot in the tournament, we headed into Indiana optimistic that we could collect a win and see ourselves progress to the tournament final.
The game itself was not one of particular flair and skill. It all came down to a mistake from our back line in which Valparaiso were able to capitalize on and record the victory that left us down and out. At the end of the game, a lot of emotion was spilt as many of our players were reduced to tears seeing the programs most winning record since 2007, come to an end.
“I’m proud of every single one of you,” Kelderman said. “You’ve fought like dogs all season and worked your butts off. I believe I have made the best decision in my career coming to work with you guys and help rebuild that program. You should all leave here with your heads held high.”
On a personal level, the season for me has been a memorable one. I was a part of a team that has been on both sides of buzzer beaters. The highs have been high and the lows have been low. But if I could replay the whole season all over again I wouldn’t change a thing.