ASHLAND, Va. – The season began with five straight shutouts – and would end with the 2017 Randolph-Macon men's soccer team having one of its strongest defensive performances in history coupled with a potent offense that scored during big moments and opportunities.
The team ended 2017 at 14-3-1 and 6-2-1 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and had one of the highest winning percentages in the country. It was the most wins for the team since 1994, when the squad won 14 matches and totaled just five losses. In the conference, this season marked the most wins since 2000 when the team collected the same number – six – in ODAC play.
With ten clean sheets on this year's record, the team collected the most shutouts in a season since 2005, when the Yellow Jackets recorded 11 scoreless matches
"We started the 2017 season coming out of the gate hot and ready to compete," said head coach Josh Laux. "The winning culture and strong mentality is officially back in the program. The players over the past few years, especially these 4 senior captains, deserve all of the credit. It has been a fun and rewarding process and I am just personally grateful to be a part of it. The goal of our program is and always will be to win the conference. With that said, because of our success, we have been able to attract some of the top teams in the country and add them to our already challenging non-conference schedule next year so that we will be a stronger candidate for an at-large selection to the NCAA tournament should we not win the conference. I am constantly impressed by the work ethic of our guys on and off the field. These guys are a pleasure to coach. I truly admire what they have been able to do in such a short time -- it's incredible when you think about how far the program has come."
The season featured multiple dramatic victories. Against Stevenson in Owings Mills, Md., Freshman Dylan Ogletree (La Plata, Md. / La Plata) scored nine minutes into the first overtime period, beating the keeper on the lower half of the box after a long pass from sophomore Josh Beeker (Bel Air, Md. / Bel Air) and securing the golden goal. It would mark R-MC's most dramatic win of the season to date – that is until two games later.
That's when the Yellow Jackets faced Catholic on Day Field – and needed a double-overtime golden goal from senior Bryan Lutz (Fairfax, Va. / W.T. Woodson) to beat the Cardinals. Lutz headed in the shot with just under two minute remaining before the match would have been declared a tie.
Randolph-Macon also got critical victories in the conference with signature wins over Randolph 2-0, Virginia Wesleyan 4-0, and Eastern Mennonite 2-1. The latter was courtesy of sophomore Christian Torres (Stafford, Va. / C.D. Hylton) on an overtime game winner. R-MC also got a pair of 2-1 wins over arch rival Hampden-Sydney, including a dramatic ODAC Tournament quarterfinal match in front of a massive crowd at the R-MC Soccer Field to push the Yellow Jackets into the ODAC semifinals. The semi's were where the R-MC season eventually ended at the hands of Lynchburg, 3-2, in a hard fought evenly played double overtime match.
This season marked plenty of team and individual accomplishments that drew high praise. As a defensive unit, seniors Jacob McHugh (Aberdeen, Md. / West Nottingham Academy) and Jake Tyler (Colonial Heights, VA / Colonial Heights) and sophomores Isaac Myers (Littlestown, Pa. / Gettysburg Area) and Paul Duffy (Salem, Va. / Salem) helped junior goalkeeper Brian Breslin (Fairfax, Va. / W.T. Woodson) have the second-best goals against average in the ODAC, only allowing 0.75 goals against. Breslin allowed just 14 goals in 18 games and nearly 1,700 minutes and was the Top 10 in the country for total shutouts and shutouts compared to matches played. McHugh and Duffy were also named All-ODAC for their work on the back line this season.
In the midfield, senior Peter Nelson (Charleston, WV / George Washington), junior Peyton Chichester (Richmond, Va. / James River) and sophomores Anthony Astruc (Glen Allen, Va. / Benedictine) and Beeker all worked to keep the ball moving forward for Randolph-Macon this season. Astruc was named to the All-ODAC First Team, while Nelson got an All-ODAC Third Team nod. The midfield was known for its ability to apply defensive pressure, create turnovers, and then move the ball quickly to generate combinations and scoring opportunities.
Those chances ended up at the feet of Lutz and Torres along with sophomore Andrew Griggs (Galloway, N.J. / Absegami) in the attacking third. The group came up huge on offense, helping the Yellow Jackets score 40 goals this season, the most since 2000, when the team scored 46. Head Coach Josh Laux was a senior on the Yellow Jacket squad that year.
Lutz completes the 2017 season as the top goal-scorer on the team with eight goals and three assists to finish with 19 points. He was named to the All-ODAC First Team. He will finish his R-MC career with 19 goals scored, the most of any R-MC player since 2004.
Torres was named the ODAC Player of the Week on October 16 for his pair of goals, including the overtime victory over Eastern Mennonite.
Offense was certainly not exclusive to the forwards though. McHugh tallied an unprecedented seven goals this season from his role on the back line and Duffy added three goals and three assists.
Randolph-Macon's deep bench did a tremendous job of maintaining, and often even raising the level of play. Many substitutes were starter caliber players but were used off the bench strategically to give the Yellow Jackets their most consistent line up throughout games. Beeker and Ogletree along with freshmen Ruben Niamien (Fredericksburg, Va. / Chancellor) and AJ Casarez (Virginia Beach, Va. / Landstown) played big roles in coming in to help through the midfield and the attacking front. Niamien finished with three goals and two assists while Casarez scored a goal as well and demonstrated an impressive preview of what is to come.
Also off the bench, sophomore Matt Whelan (Elkridge, Md. / Mount St. Joseph) brought renewed energy to many games, while Freshman Paul McLaughlin (Chapel Hill, N.C. / Chapel Hill) came on late in the season earning some quality minutes making him a major player to watch for 2018. Several other young players who did not see much time this year are expected to make major contributions next season. The Jackets also look forward to the return of rising senior Andrew Gyimesi (Midlothian, Va. / James River), who was sidelined all season with an injury. Gyimesi is regarded as one of the top attacking players in the program.
United Soccer Coaches Final Regional Ranking:
#10 in South Atlantic Region
Was ranked as high as #8 in the region this year (Week 6)
Region ecompasses schools in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, the USA South Athletic Conference, the New Jersey Athletic Conference, the Southern Athletic Association and the Capital Athletic Conference, spanning from New Jersey to Georgia
D3Soccer.com Top 25 Poll
Received votes in Week 5, Week 7, Week 9 and Week 10 (final) polls