Overtime thriller hands JCU Men’s Soccer fourth straight OAC Championship title


John Carroll Sports Information Department

Will Turrittin, Nicholas Graeca, and Michael Adelman after winning the OAC Championship for the fourth straight time on Saturday, Nov. 6 against Otterbein University.

Ashley McCall, Staff Reporter

The John Carroll University Men’s Soccer team was crowned Ohio Athletic Conference Champions for the fourth straight season following their 1-0 overtime decision victory over the Otterbein University Cardinals on Saturday, Nov. 6. 

“It is the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of these players that made this win possible,” said JCU Men’s Soccer Head Coach Dejan Mladenovic. “Watching the joy on their faces as they earn the opportunity to raise that trophy is all that matters to me.”

After 181 minutes and 21 seconds between the two contests played this season between John Carroll and Otterbein, Ben Hryszko was once again the hero of the story as he scored his fourth game winning goal of the year in overtime.

The Blue and Gold glided through the OAC playoffs after clinching first place seed, for the fourth consecutive year, after their 2-0 win over Wilmington College in the final regular season game on Saturday, Oct. 30. 

Receiving a bye for the quarter finals round, John Carroll hosted the semifinals match against Capital University on Thursday, Nov. 4, defeating the Crusaders 4-1 after a momentous second half. 

The Blue Streaks were on a roll as they stepped on the field to take on the Otterbein Cardinals, one of the four teams John Carroll tied with during the regular season. 

The undefeated, No. 9 nationally ranked Cardinals proved to be a tough competitor for the Blue and Gold in the championship game. 

As regulation time ended, the championship game remained scoreless between these two evenly matched competitors.

“The mindset going into overtime was that we wanted to finish the game as early as possible since we had some momentum at the end of regulation,” said Hryszko. “We wanted to come out with a lot of energy and get an early goal and we did. I remember the coaches saying this is what we worked for all season and that at the end of the day, we just have to give it our all and want it more.”

It was less than two minutes into overtime when Nicholas Graeca crossed the ball into the box, finding Hryszko flying through the air for a header that went just over towering Otterbein goalkeeper Andrew McIlvoy for the game-ending goal. 

John Carroll’s senior class and fifth years after winning the OAC Championship against Otterbein University (John Carroll Sports Information Department)

“I thought our effort on the defensive side of the ball was elite. Otterbein is a very direct team that relies on set pieces and long throws to create scoring opportunities,” said Mladenovic. “Our players not only were up for the challenge, but they won that battle for every minute they were on the field on Saturday night.”

The shot margin was much more controlled this time around as the Blue Streaks outshot the Cardinals 10-9, compared to earlier in the month when the Blue and Gold doubled the shot attempts by Otterbein (26-12). 

There was also a remarkable number of fouls called during the game. 25 fouls were called between the two teams as the intensity and physicality increased throughout the match. 

After the championship game, Mladenovic and the Wenzler’s Warriors were very emotional.

The John Carroll Men’s Soccer Team celebrating their fourth straight OAC Championship. The team honored former John Carroll Sports Information Director the late Chris Wenzler by dedicating their season to him. (John Reid )

“2021 has been an extremely important year for the JCU Men’s Soccer program. When we decided to dedicate the spring and fall season to Chris Wenzler, [our late Sports Information Director], we took a tremendous amount of responsibility on our shoulders to honor a man who has given so much to the university, athletic department and program,” said Mladenovic. “We could feel his presence all year, but it was on a different spectrum on Saturday night. I know he’s looking forward to the NCAA tournament just as much as we are.”

With this win, the Blue Streaks were named the OAC Champions of the 2021 season and received an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Tournament. 

The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament will occur in University Heights on Saturday, Nov. 13 and Sunday, Nov. 14. The Blue and Gold will open up the tournament on Saturday at 11 a.m. against Bethany (WV) at Don Shula Stadium.