There was much to celebrate about Manhattan College’s 2018 season.
The Jaspers men’s soccer team set a program record with 12 wins, compiled an all-time best .875 winning percentage in the non-conference portion of their season, posted nine shutouts during the year, defeated a nationally-ranked team for the first time in school history, and also received votes in the national rankings for the first time.
But what the Jaspers didn’t accomplish, what gnaws at them to this day, and what motivates them going into the 2019 season is this: Despite all their successes, they failed to qualify for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference postseason.
By a mere point.
Jaspers’ head coach Jorden Scott likens last season to that of a certain west coast NBA team.
“We were like the Golden State Warriors four years ago,” Scott said of a team that tied the NBA record with 73 wins but failed to win the championship. “Every game we played we were chasing a record. When we went into conference season, we were 8-1. Then what happened was, the core of our team were new guys and they had never done a full college season before.”
What followed was a 5-5 conference run that saw Manhattan lose three of its final five games to just miss out on the postseason.
“When we hit mid-season, these guys were just mentally fatigued,” Scott said. “Of the five games we lost, one was in double overtime against Quinnipiac, we lost 1-0 to St. Peter’s, 2-1 to Marist, and we lost two games with a man sent off. We were so close. It was just that period in October where we ran out of steam mentally as well as physically.”
Now the rallying cry for this year’s Jaspers team is “Own October.”
And Manhattan certainly has the pieces to do just that. There is senior defender Adrien Awana, a preseason All-MAAC First Team selection, who anchored a Jaspers defense that allowed a program-low 12 goals in 18 matches last season.
Upfront there is junior forward Berti Fourrier, a preseason Second Team pick, who led the Jaspers with five assists last season while also scoring four goals.
And then there is goalkeeper extraordinaire Marcellin Gohier, who enters his senior season with a school-record 13 shutouts along with 97 career saves.
It’s a trio of French natives that should have Scott chanting “vive la France” before each match this season.
“They are desperate for the MAAC tournament,” Scott said. “We got some first place votes (in the conference preseason poll) for a reason because there are programs out there that believe we can challenge for a championship. All our guys returning are extremely hungry.”
And even though the calendar still reads August, Scott and the Jaspers already are laser-focused on the crucial month of October when MAAC play begins.
“What we have this year are a lot of returning players,” Scott said. “The guys are a year more experienced and they understand what they’re walking into.”
To prepare for October’s pivotal contests, Scott fortified his schedule with brand-name schools from much larger conferences in the non-conference season.
“This year we’ve deliberately put together a tough out-of-conference schedule so our focus is more on developing character and having the team learn to recover mentally and physically from mistakes and understanding how to deal with that,” Scott said. “That way we’ll be more prepared for October.”
The Jaspers begin the season with six straight road games, just to up the degree of difficulty even more.
“With a strong upper class coming back this year, we wanted to play against some big fish,” Scott said. “Rutgers, St. John’s and UConn all offered to play us. So we’re excited to go play against the Big 10, the American Athletic and the Big East conferences and see where we are.”
The other three road games include Lehigh, St. Francis College in Brooklyn, and Fordham.
“With our schedule this year, it will be a challenge to have a winning (overall) record,” Scott said. “But we believe if we have a winning record (going into conference play), we’ll be in the MAAC championship. That’s where we want to be every year.”
With a couple of first place votes, a veteran-laden team and brand new facilities at Gaelic Park, the needle certainly appears to be pointing up for Manhattan.
“Oh my God, yes,” Scott said. “We missed out on a playoff spot last year by a point. We felt we should have been in the MAAC tournament. Now we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, a little bit of revenge on our minds. So this year we’ll be ready to go.
“There is no doubt about that.”