Millikin’s Soccer Season

When the Millikin Men’s soccer team came home from their final conference game against Carroll University on October 27, the players were felt enraged, disappointed, and confused at the same time. How could their season, which started off so well, be over so quickly?

While many turned their attention to other fall sports, Big Blue Soccer players lived a dramatic story, seeing shocking victories and crushing losses.

They began their season with a streak: winning their first two games against North Central College and Illinois College.

Then, on September 29, they faced North Park University.

North Park won the CCIW championship last year and went on to claim tenth place in the nation.

“That was the best game we played,” Takunda Jakachira, a senior right-wing, said. “Everything just went according to plan, that day. That had to be the best feeling of the season because no one thought we could do it. First of all, no one thought we were going to beat the tenth team in the nation and stuff. We didn’t just beat them, we beat them 3-0.”

Many players agree this was the highest point of their season. After that game, they jumped to ranking first in the conference.

“We scored one and I don’t think anyone believed what was going on,” Gabriel Gil, a junior midfielder, said. “Then we scored another one and everyone just looked at each other like, ‘Are we actually winning this time?’”

They were really winning. Once Jakachira scored the third goal in the second half and North Park had failed to score, that’s when they realized they had done it. They beat the tenth team in the nation at the opposing university.

“That was amazing,” Gil said. “We played really good and, since that game, I thought, ‘Well, if we play at this level of soccer, we can clearly just easily beat other teams.’”

The team had worked hard to achieve the skills they needed for this success.

“Before the CCIW played, we had some good results but I think we needed to play better,” Jakachira said. “When we played North Park, we played well and we got the results. We were starting to feel like this could be a special season.”

But after such an impressive win, the team faced a problem: How do they keep it up?

The teams lost their games against Augustana and Illinois Wesleyan. Those losses, however, could not have compared to their final loss against Carroll, which, many say, was a questionable loss.

A questionable loss, that is, based on a strange call.

They had ten points and they needed to get thirteen to qualify for the CCIW tournament. Millikin Men’s Soccer has not been to the CCIW conference since 2014 and they lost 4-0 against Wheaton College. This time, a tie wouldn’t be enough to secure a spot. They had to win.

“Nothing went our way, that day,” Jakachira said. “They scored, I think there wasn’t even a minute on the clock. Just, right from kickoff. We scored right after, I think two minutes after it was when I scored.”

By the end of the last half, Carroll was leading 3-2, but Millikin had possession of the ball.

“This was, like, the last play of the game,” Jakachira said. “You could hear the announcer counting down, ‘Ten, nine, eight…’ and we scored.”

They scored with one second on the clock and the referee called the goal, made by Patrick Dolan, the captain of the team.

They thought they were headed into overtime. The team gathered in a huddle, preparing for what they were going to do to make it to the tournament.

But then the referee returned, raised his hand, blew the whistle, and announced that Carroll had won. They weren’t going to count the goal. Some players were dumbfounded, others were livid. Though there was video of the last play, the officials did not acknowledge it and Carroll ended up with the win.

That was the last game Jakachira, Dolan, and another senior, Christian Zenon, would play with Millikin. “I was pretty close with the Senior Class, this year,” Gil said. “It’s kind of hard letting them go, especially the way that we did, saying goodbye to them was really hard. That’s how college sports careers go, you know.”

For the future teams, Jakachira and Gil suggest that players remember to always show as much effort as possible during each game. It was a great season, but fierce determination is needed to stay on top.

On paper, Millikin should not have lost against Carroll because they were ranked last in the conference, but sometimes things happen when the teams upset. In some cases, this can be exciting, like when Millikin beat North Park in the first place.

“I would have thought that if this season had gone the way we thought it would, it might get people to take interest,” Jakachira said. If next year the team makes it, maybe people will.