Men’s Soccer wins Ohio Athletic Conference for fifth straight year to head to NCAA Tournament


JCU Sports Information Department

The Blue Streaks after the OAC Championship game last Saturday.

Garrett Siegel, Staff Reporter

With a win on Sat., Nov. 5, the John Carroll Men’s Soccer team won their fifth straight Ohio Athletic Conference tournament, securing an automatic bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. 

The Blue Streaks have been a competitor in every NCAA Tournament played since 2016, making this the team’s sixth straight tournament appearance (there was no tournament in Fall 2020/Spring 2021 due to COVID-19.)

The regular season this year was filled with ups and downs including a 5-3-1 out of conference record due to a top 25 strength of schedule. The Blue and Gold also were handed their first regular season OAC loss since 2018 and did not win the OAC regular season either, something they have done for the past five years. For the first time since 2018, the Blue Streaks entered the OAC Tournament as the No. 2 seed.

John Carroll got a first round bye and hosted the Otterbein Cardinals in the OAC Tournament Semifinals on Thurs., Nov. 3. This was a rematch of last year’s final game that the Blue Streaks won 1-0 in overtime. 

John Carroll did not start well as the Cardinals took the lead in the fourteenth minute which led into halftime. After the break however, the game shifted to JCU. 

The Blue Streaks scored just eight minutes into the second half to even the score and get right back into the game. Hayden Haffner ‘24 was credited with the score off a great pass from Logan Penton ‘25. Despite outshooting Otterbein 11-4 in the second half, the game went into overtime. 

The overtime period started much like the first half with Otterbein firing three shots to JCU’s one, but none found the back of the net. But, the Blue Streaks broke through. 

Logan Penton on the field during the OAC Championship game against Wilmington on Saturday. (JCU Sports Information Department)

Penton sent another great pass up the field where Michael Kelly ‘25 jumped over a defender. He took advantage of a momentary out of position goalie and headed the ball into the net to give John Carroll the lead. 

The new overtime rules implemented this season got rid of the “golden goal” rule so the Blue and Gold only needed to hold on for the last nine minutes to win— and they did just that. 

The Blue Streaks held the Cardinals to just one shot, which was saved, and the team returned to the OAC Championship for the fifth straight year. 

After an overtime victory for No. 4 seed Wilmington over No. 1 seed Ohio Northern, John Carroll was able to host the title game. The game was played on a warm but windy evening in Don Shula Stadium. 

Less than ten minutes in, the Blue Streaks got on the board. Again it was Penton who sparked the team with his fourth point in the OAC Tournament. Penton won the ball, deked past a defender and put a “bad-angled” shot off the far post and in to give John Carroll the lead early in the game. 

“I had a slow start to the season with goals. I didn’t know what my role was going to be,” said Penton. “Coach told me that big players show up in big games. To get the goal was great, but it wouldn’t be possible without my teammates. This team is special because we have a mix of new guys and veterans. The guys returning showed the JCU way and how to be Men of Carroll. This is a good group of guys.”

Ten minutes later, the Blue Streaks got on the board again. Catching the Fightin’ Quakers off guard, captain Nicholas Ruggerio ‘23 had a throw-in that led Ben Brucken ‘24 into the box. Brucken got enough of a foot on the ball to sneak it past the goalie and give the Streaks a 2-0 lead. 

The whole stadium expected the Blue Streaks to lead 2-0 going into the break, but the Quakers found life. With two minutes left in the half, a hard tackle got the Carroll bench shouting for a penalty. The short distraction all of a sudden gave Wilmington numbers after a great pass. Off of another pass, the ball bounced into the feet of Quaker’s Nick In’tZand to the right of the box. He had just enough space to fire off a shot to the bottom left and snuck under the arm of keeper Jake Vogrin to make the game 2-1 going into the locker rooms. 

John Carroll came out of halftime fed off the mistake. While there was an expectation the goal could give Wilmington momentum, it was the Blue Streaks that came out firing. 

Just nine minutes into the second half, Patrick Koenig ‘24 found enough space around a defender and put another goal into the back of the net to make it 3-1. 

Patrick Koenig and Nicholas Graeca celebrate following another Blue and Gold goal during the OAC Championship game. (JCU Sports Information Department)

With 20 minutes remaining, Jack Foht ‘25 would deliver the dagger. Nicholas Felician ‘23 and Nicholas Graeca ‘25 made passes in the box, giving Foht space around the edge as he put the game away. 

Despite outshooting the Blue Streaks 12-7 and earning five corner kicks to zero for the home team, Wilmington was not able to score. The final score was 4-1 and, unlike the four previous OAC Finals, John Carroll won comfortably. 

The Blue Streaks went into Monday hoping the conference championship and a great strength of schedule would allow them to host the NCAA Tournament this upcoming weekend. However, on Mon., Nov. 7, the Blue Streaks were not selected to host this year, and will instead be on the road as they travel to host site Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD. 

The Blue Streaks will play Landmark Conference Champions and fellow Jesuit college, University of Scranton, on Sat., Nov.12. The Royals and Blue Streaks have never met on the pitch before. 

Johns Hopkins got an at-large bid from the Centennial conference and will face Lehman, the CUNYAC Conference Champions. 

The winner of these two matchups will play at Johns Hopkins the next day, Sun., Nov. 13. 

The Blue and Gold have won six games this season in a row, four straight NCAA first round games and look to keep that streak going to keep their season alive.