The Truman State University men’s soccer team made history this fall when they defeated William Jewell College Oct. 23. The win clinched their spot in the GLVC postseason tournament, marking the first time they made the tournament since Truman joined the GLVC conference during 2015.
It was a special feeling for the players, especially for graduate student defense Will Clayton and midfielder and forward Mac Knudsen.
“It was really meaningful to a lot of us, especially the older guys,” Knudsen said. “To work towards a goal for four years and finally achieve it was pretty special.”
Clayton said he felt blessed he got to achieve a spot in the tournament with that group of players.
“Having played here five years, I know how difficult it is and how much work it took to get us to this point,” Clayton said.
After coming up just short of a tournament bid during 2018 and 2019, Truman finished in last place in the GLVC in back to back seasons during the spring and fall of 2021.
One of the main drivers of the team’s massive turnaround this season was their fighting spirit, according to Knudsen and Clayton. They notched one come-from-behind victory, scoring two goals in the second half to beat Quincy University Oct. 16. They also had three come-from-behind draws, including against University of Illinois-Springfield Oct. 7, in which graduate student midfielder Andy Brennan scored in stoppage time to tie the game.
“We played much less selfishly this year,” Knudsen said. “We also believed in ourselves. When we got down in games, we knew we could come back, and we did several times. That attitude shift really helped us this year.”
Student assistant coach Aidan Bilbao said the buy-in from the group made them successful this year.
“Everyone was determined to achieve this goal,” Bilbao said. “We had been poor result-wise the last few seasons, but the group always knew we could get it done if everyone bought in. They did this year, and that is what made the difference.”
After starting out 3-1-2, Truman went eight games without a win in the middle of their season.
As part of their belief in the team, Clayton said the Bulldogs did not allow this midseason stretch to break them.
Truman won two of their last three games — just enough to propel them into the postseason tournament. Though they lost in the quarterfinal 1-0 to Lewis University, the team still feels momentum coming from their strong finish to the season, said Bilbao.
“We want to make the tournament again and go farther next season,” sophomore midfielder Aidan Morgan said. “We want to make this a yearly thing now that we’ve been there once. We know we’re good enough, so we just have to put the work in to make that a reality.”
Looking ahead to next season, the soccer team will see seven players graduate. Bilbao said the biggest focus next year will be getting everyone on the same page with lots of players in new roles.
Bilbao also said he is looking forward to working with the new freshmen class coming in and he believes they can make an immediate impact on the team. He is optimistic for the future of Truman men’s soccer.
When asked for their favorite memory from their five year Truman soccer careers, Clayton and Knudsen did not hesitate to say it was making the GLVC tournament — a testament to how much this season meant to the team.