Men’s soccer faces ‘heartbreak’ after championship game loss to Saint Joseph

Norwich and Saint Joseph players hug after a tough championship loss in the GNAC finals. Norwich Athletics Photo.

The Norwich University men’s soccer team had great success during this year’s playoffs but once again fell short where it counts, in its final game.
In the GNAC Championship against Saint Joseph’s College of Maine on Nov. 4, the Norwich men lost to the Monks of Saint Joseph, 1-0.
“It was a real heartbreak, we tried our best during preseason and you put so much strength and work, and you fall short and it’s a heartbreaker,” said Alex Arvizo a 22-year old sophomore history major with a minor in political science and Spanish from Albuquerque, N.M.
The feeling after the game was “atrocious,” in the words of some soccer players.
“It was the same kind of scenario last year, we knew that Saint Joseph was going to be tough they didn’t let up a single goal this entire season,” said Matt Mazzola, a 20-year old junior computer security and information assurance major from Ridgefield, Conn.
Saint Joseph’s took home the GNAC crown for the second year in a row, and their fourth title overall (2009, 2011, 2016, 2017). They finished off a truly historic regular and postseason, in which they managed to shut out every opponent they faced.
Still, Norwich had a successful year especially overcoming early rough spots and some injuries.

“This season, as a co-captain, we started off a little bit rough and from last year we didn’t have a lot of team chemistry, it meant a lot to the entire team to get it started in the beginning of the season,” said Mazzola.
The soccer team’s overall record throughout the season was 11-4 with five ties. Their conference record was 6-0, with four ties.
“It showed Norwich’s resilience and strength in soccer that we continue a great program. This is the third in the last four years: we’ve been to the championship three times, we haven’t missed the semi-finals in 17 years,” said Arvizo.
In the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Quarterfinals against Emmanuel College, the team prevailed with a shutout, winning their first post-season game 2-0. In the semi-final against Johnson & Wales University, the Cadets prevailed 2-1, setting up the championship game against their tough foe, St. Josephs.
It was what the Cadets were looking for. “The main goal is to get back in the championship and win it,” Arvizo said, and the team was very confident heading into the championship game.
“We tied them in the beginning of the year so we felt going in, we knew that it was going to be a tough game,” Mazzola said.
The leadership on the team played a huge role this year. “The leadership is awesome; the team captain is Collin Lozito, one of the best guys you will ever meet in your life and the hardest worker, a great person on and off the field,” Arvizo said. He also cited Matt Mazzola and Matt Hilton as “great captains as well, always looking out for the team making sure everybody’s grades are good and always forcing us to put the work in on and off the field,” Arvizo said.
Injuries didn’t play a huge part until the middle of the season, according to the players.
“In the beginning of the season we didn’t have that many injuries, but then we kind of hit an injury spell in the middle of the season, Arvizo said, noting a couple people down with two collarbone injuries and a couple with knee injuries. But that didn’t hold the team back and “heading towards the end of the season we got everyone healthy for the most part,” he said.
The goal now after the disappointment in the championship game is to get a head start in the offseason.
“Next year, we are starting early to get everybody on board and explain the why in every situation of why we do certain things, and what the end result is going to be,” Mazzola said.
“I notice that our team is a little bit smaller and (we have) some unexperienced guys so we need to get those guys in the gym doing their own offseason training and making sure that everybody is on the same page knowing what the goal is and how to achieve it,” Mazzola said.

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