The windchill at Fauver Stadium may be in the low-teens, but that is all right with the University of Rochester men’s soccer team.
“Even though it’s freezing, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” said junior midfielder Zach Lawlor.
The Yellowjackets are preparing for next weekend’s D-III Final Four in Greensboro, NC. It is the furthest the UR men’s soccer team has ever reached in the NCAA Tournament.
“Nothing is better than training in late November because that means that you are going deep in the tournament,” said senior goalie Patrick Conway. “I think I speak for all the seniors when I say that we’re really glad that we can still keep going, because once it’s over, we’re all done here.”
The team is coming off a whirlwind week that resulted in this new level of success. The Yellowjackets were originally scheduled to play in the sectionals at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. Snow and freezing rain made the fields unplayable, re-directing the games to Rochester. The Yellowjackets beat Eastern University and then the defending champs from Messiah to reach the national semifinals.
“To finally get this program to a Final Four is pretty special,” said head coach Chris Apple. “It’s special for these guys especially, but also for the alumni who have been a part of this program and been supportive of this program, it’s great for everyone.”
The NCAA tournament takes a week break before Final Four because of the Thanksgiving holiday. The Yellowjackets don’t play again until Friday, November 30th against Tufts. The Jumbos come into the game with an unbeaten record of 16-0-3.
“Tufts has a lot of really talented players. It’ll be a great game,” said Apple. “It’ll be a tough opponent, but we’ve faced really tough opponents earlier this season, certainly beating Messiah, but also facing Chicago, Carnegie Melon, Case Western, and all of the UAA schools that really prepared us well.”
As stakes increased with each passing round, the Yellowjackets defense has continued to meet every challenge. UR has allowed only one goal in its last five games.
“The back four has been phenomenal,” said Conway. “Everyone has been playing out of their mind. It’s been fantastic. Everyone has been doing their jobs and it’s been really great to see everyone come together.”
The UR defense will need to step up once more against a team that won national titles in 2014 and 2016. The other semifinal features Case Western Reserve and Calvin College.
“I think our communication among the back four and goalkeepers all the way up to our midfield and forwards, is very good,” said Lawlor. “We’re all on the same page and the chemistry between us has been the great and I think that’s been the difference.”
If the Yellowjackets win in the semifinal on November 30th, the championship would be December 1st.