While many of us were watching the NFL showdown between the Steelers and Vikings on Sunday, the St. Francis men's soccer team was hosting an epic battle of their own against Monmouth, the seventh-ranked team in the nation.
"We knew going into the game that they were a tough opponent, and one of the best teams in the country," said coach Mike Casper. "We also felt that if we played the way we know we are capable of playing, they would have their hands full. We knew we'd have to play a near-perfect match to get the win."
Not only did the Red Flash pull off the stunning upset on the crisp Sunday afternoon, the defense was perfect in the 2-0 win.
The offensive effort may be even more impressive against the Monmouth defense, ranked second in the nation. The Flash became the first squad to score more than one goal against the previously-unbeaten Hawks, who had only allowed three goals all season.
This is by far the biggest win in program history.
"This really gives our guys a belief that they can play with anyone," Casper said. "It validates everything they have been working on and it gives us some national recognition."
Casper, in his seventh season with the Flash program and third as head coach, knows this young squad has even greater days ahead of them.?They'll lose just three seniors to graduation at the end of the campaign.
With a record of 6-10-1, the Flash remain a long shot to earn a spot in the Northeast Conference tournament. However, this history-making win over the first top 10 team to ever visit Loretto should provide a fantastic springboard into next season.
"We didn't know how to win the close matches," Casper said, "but Sunday, in the close moments of that match, we were the better team. This shows our guys what they are capable of and what kind of team we can be."
The season-defining win will do more than build the returning players' confidence. It puts St. Francis on the national map, which should help with international recruiting efforts. Like many U.S. college soccer programs, Casper and his staff scour the globe for players.
Senior Daniel Moir, from New Zealand, earned NEC Player of the Week honors with his one-goal, one-assist effort.
The Flash host Bryant this Friday, and Robert Morris Nov. 7, to round out the regular-season schedule, knowing they'll need some help to make the postseason.
However, this squad, which has struggled to find its identity, can now define themselves as giant-killers. After their epic upset, the Flash are well aware that anything can happen.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.