The men's soccer season was bookended with wins in 2013. The middle of the campaign, however, displayed the parity of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, as the Royals suffered five one-goal losses, including two in overtime, and were denied a return trip to the ODAC Tournament.
"It was a season of near misses," said Coach Roger Mast after his 23rd season at his alma mater, "from losing by a goal to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the conference to finishing one spot out of making the conference tournament. There is so much parity amongst our conference opponents and a fine line between success and failure, and wins and losses. It's a good life lesson learned."
EMU started the year with a 3-1 trumping of Marymount, and entered their home opener with a record of 2-2. But after a few well-played losses, the men fell into a seven-game losing skid. With an easier finish to the ODAC schedule, the Royals were still hoping for a tournament bid until a 2-1 double overtime loss at rival Bridgewater on Oct. 23. With two games left, but no chance of making the postseason, the men finished very well, scoring four times in each of their season-ending victories.
At 5-13 overall and 3-8 in the league, the men finished just one win from making the ODAC Tournament. Further showing the balance of the league, Eastern Mennonite nearly took down each of the two teams which eventually played in the conference's championship game, Virginia Wesleyan and Randolph. Both regular season contests ended in 2-1 losses, including an OT decision against Randolph.
Joao Downs (Limon, Costa Rica/Colegio de Limon Diurno) was named All-ODAC and All-State First Team. He not only locked down the center of the defensive line, but the 6-2 back was also tied for second on the team with three goals.
Forward Christian Rhine (Palmyra, Pa./Palmyra) topped the team with four goals and ten points, and earned a spot on the All-ODAC Third Team. Midfielder Mark Mast (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite) also finished with ten points on three goals and four assists, and was named Scholar All-East Region Honorable Mention by the NSCAA after the season. Both players entered EMU's top 50 Career Scoring list with 29 and 24 points, respectively.
Coach Mast said he will keep hold of two highlights from the year.
"The first memory involves our last two matches," explained Mast. "The team showed grit when we reached a point of the season where we were mathematically eliminated from postseason play. With little to play for the team scored eight goals in our final games of the year. That gives us a two-game winning streak going into our 2014 season.
"The second memory is a collective memory of all of the experiences that we have had with the seniors on the team: Carl Becker (Vienna, Va./James Madison), Ryan Connors (Frederick, Md./New Life Christian), Juan Flores (Mt. Jackson, Va./Stonewall Jackson), Caleb Golladay (Mt. Jackson, Va./Stonewall Jackson), Jordan Hollinger (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite), Brendan Jeschke (Vienna, Va./James Madison) and Brad Knispel (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota Christian). We have had a lot of fun and worked very hard over the years and I have enjoyed watching them develop into fine men."