For the third weekend in a row, the Colorado College men’s soccer team sprinted, sweated, and scored in Texas this weekend. With a 1-0 win against the University of Dallas, the team ended their regular season with seven straight wins. Though this game was low-scoring, Head Coach Scott Palguta was more than okay with the 1-0 shutout. “That’s what we’re going to get this time of year, especially being on the road,” said Palguta. “I don’t think our expectations are to be winning games 5-0.” With the combination of mediocre field conditions, the heat in Texas, and the level of intensity at the end of the season, the team will gladly take 1-0 wins.
Palguta mentioned that while the team never played poorly against Dallas, the level of play in the first half was slightly subpar. However, during the second half of the game, the guys came together, took responsibility for their mistakes, flipped the switch, and cranked up the intensity. “Knowing what is at stake, we want to keep that kind of momentum rolling into the con-ference tournament,” Palguta said.
The game winning goal came from senior Caden MacKenzie, who was dealing with a hamstring injury in the three games proceeding this match against Dallas. MacKenzie, who also had to miss most of last season due to an injury, tried to look at this situation in a positive light. “I wasn’t too bummed because these are the important games coming up,” MacKenzie said, “And the team pulled through [when I was hurt]. Now I’m back, feeling rested and ready to go.”
MacKenzie’s presence was missed on the field, and it’s crucial that he ended the regular season with a game-winning goal. “That is our expectation of Caden— he’s a senior, one of our most experienced players, and we put a burden on him to carry that load offensively for the team,” Palguta said. While not everyone can handle the pressure of having a target on their back, MacKenzie’s three prior years of success on the field guarantee that he be targeted by other teams. “When our opponents scout us, Caden is one of those guys that is circled on their scouting board and that’s tough,” Palguta said.
MacKenzie doesn’t mind having the target on his back, though. “I think the way I play, I ask for it,” MacKenzie said. “But we play the same teams twice every year, so I know the guys on the other team and the coaches, and they know us [seniors] by now.” According to MacKenzie, the more time CC players spend on the field with the team, the more the opponents understand how they play. Every team does it because it’s crucial to target certain players and styles of play.
The Tigers are a force to be reckoned with because they don’t just have one or two players to target. While MacKenzie is essential on the field, the last 11 goals scored by the Tigers came from 10 different players. This is huge. “We’ve relied on the depth of the team to get us through this final third of the season,” Palguta said. “We’ve really spread it around and every single week there’s a new guy popping up to help us win games.” Palguta and the rest of the coaching staff are proud to know they can get a goal from anyone at almost any time, and that togetherness has really shown through these past few weeks.
With the regular season over, the team will enter their conference tournament seeded as the number two team. Because of this, they’re given a first-round bye, and if they win both of their games after that, they’ll go to the NCAA tournament, which, according to MacKenzie, is the goal. “In my three years here, that has never happened,” MacKenzie said. “So [the other seniors and I] are doing everything we can to make that happen.”