By Justin Bercovich
Charging ahead with a full head of steam, the UC Santa Cruz men’s soccer team slaughtered Chapman University 6-0 on Friday to end the regular season with a shining 19-1 record.
And on Monday, the Slugs finally got word that they received a bid to the playoffs.
"It’s a whole new season now," senior captain David Frank said. "Got to win. Can’t lose. Can’t tie."
The Slugs postseason run will begin Saturday in San Antonio, against Puget Sound. If they can win five games, they will play in the championship game on Nov. 25 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
So is a national title in sight for UCSC, who lost in the championship round last season?
"I feel this team is talented enough, and you always need a little bit of luck," Coach Dan Chamberlain said. "Without that national championship, it’s not going to be a successful season for everybody."
Junior Tim DeGrasse can imagine the glory of a title.
"I know I dream about it every night," he said. "I hope everybody else does too."
The team hopes that its current win streak and momentum will carry through to the postseason.
"As a senior, [the Chapman game] was a great game to end on," said Frank, who scored two goals in his final home game at UCSC.
Despite leading Chapman 2-0 at halftime, Frank did not think that the Slugs were playing up to their capability. Early in the second half, Chapman’s Jeff Shah received a red card for arguing with an official after being called for a foul. The Slugs capitalized on the ejection, scoring four goals as the rout was on.
"Toward the end of the first half, I thought we were going away from our game a little bit, but in the second half, they got the red card, and we started moving the ball around a little better," Frank said.
Junior Harry Abraham, who knocked in his 15th goal of the season, emphasized the importance of playing with an extra man.
"[The red card] makes it twice as hard for them," he said. "It makes it easier for us, and it makes it a more fun game for us. You could see it on the field; we were just tearing it up."
DeGrasse netted two goals in the winning effort, and senior Justin Brock chipped one in as well.
Nursing a sprained ankle that he sustained against Occidental, Captain Steve Wondolowski did not play, but his absence from the game may be precautionary for another reason. He has four yellow cards this season, and a fifth card would have meant sitting out the first playoff game. Chamberlain cited the injury as the sole reason for Wondolowski’s absence.
"He’s injured," Chamberlain said. "The yellow cards don’t really factor in [the decision to rest him], but it’s a nice by-product." The injury will not keep Wondolowski out of the playoffs.
With the regular season finished, the Slugs are marching into the playoffs riding the momentum of a 15-game winning streak. When talking about the season as a whole, the team continues crediting its preseason trip to Brazil for strengthening the team.
"We went down to Brazil to start the season, and we just felt something was different," DeGrasse said. "There has been good team unity, and everyone has stepped up and done their part this year."
Chamberlain agreed with that assessment.
"From our first day in Brazil to our first day here, they all knew that we could do something special," Chamberlain said. "We have an unbelievable group of seniors. I just couldn’t have asked for better senior leadership."And those seniors can’t wait to take home a national title.
"It’s always in our minds," Abraham said. "We don’t play the season just to do well or just to make it to the playoffs. We play to win the national championship. I can’t wait. We should do great things."