Soccer 2012 Marauders
take program to new heights Prior to 2011, Millersville’s greatest soccer season also included perhaps its most heartbreaking moment. The 2008 team was 18-3 and was on the precipice of the NCAA semifinals, but with the score tied, Northern Kentucky advanced 5-4 on penalty kicks (PK), ending the Marauders’ season. Flash forward to Oct. 19, 2011. Millersville is mired in an up-and-down season. Its record is 7-4-1 and they’re staring a loss to nonconference foe District of Columbia square in the face. With just 1:33 left to play and the scored tied 2-2, Ethan Daubert, a member of what would become the most successful senior class in program history, drew another penalty kick (PK). Daubert, a four-time PSAC Scholar-Athlete, lined up his shot and beat the keeper for a 3-2 win. In retrospect, Daubert’s goal was a season changer.
“We had been through a bit of a tough time results wise, so that PK had a lot riding on it,” said Millersville head coach Steve Widdowson. “We needed to win that game, and to do it in that manner gave us a really big lift that we then rode out for the rest of the season.” Even after beating UDC, the Marauders lost two of its next four and were seemingly limping into the PSAC their tournament. But never bet against a battle-hardened, veteran team in the postseason. Seniors Daubert, Aaron Roland, Eric Pepper, Pat Baffuto and John Claffey reached the NCAA tournament twice and PSAC tournament three times. “Our mind-set was that we had to learn from our difficulties and turn those tough results into positives for the future,” said Widdowson. “We decided that we needed to work harder and improve on a few things, but most importantly we had to keep believing in ourselves. We kept focusing on the long-term understanding that if we did learn lessons and work harder, then everything would come out right in the end, and that proved to be true.” Jump ahead exactly one month to Nov. 19. Millersville has won five consecutive postseason games, storming to 18 Sports Spring 2012
the first PSAC championship in program history with a 1-0 win over Bloomsburg and then defeating Mercyhurst and California (Pa.) at Chryst Field at Biemesderfer Stadium to clinch its second NCAA Atlantic Regional title in four seasons. The Marauders are tied 0-0 with Rockhurst and it’s time for penalty kicks. The senior class provides an answer once again. Pepper and Claffey score two in a row. In the seventh round of PKs, freshman goalkeeper Brad Benzing, who has not allowed a single goal in six consecutive postseason games, dives to his left on a shot from John Merlo and makes the save. Millersville advances—further than any team in the previous 51 seasons. Finally, triumph in PKs. For the seniors who were freshmen in 2008, the demons are exorcised. The Marauders’ season eventually came to an end against NCAA champion Fort Lewis, yet only two words can describe the 2011 team and the season: the best. “With absolutely zero disrespect to any other team or player in the past, [this team] has to be described as the best ever,” said Widdowson. “They have increased the standards within the program and achieved things that have never been done before. It was a very complete team and very unified team, and that team mentality was a massive factor in our success.” For Widdowson, a two-time Atlantic Region and PSAC Coach of the Year, his greatest achievement gives way to his greatest challenge: how to sustain the success and continue competing on a national level and relying heavily on homegrown talent? “It’s very simple, hard work,” said Widdowson. “We all know what our restrictions are, but I never look at them as negatives. I just look at them as challenges, and it just means I have to work harder. Having said that, it’s not just about hard work, it’s also about smart work. I am constantly looking at how I can improve our program, and that’s not just in soccer. It’s also looking for ways to improve in recruiting, player development, personal development and academic development. We never stand still and we are never scared to make changes. I love what I do, and I love being at Millersville.”
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