Oklahoma Wesleyan’s season came to a close in the quarterfinals of the NAIA national tournament, but the season is one that will be remembered for many years. And it will be a benchmark for future editions of the men’s soccer teams in Bartlesville.
The Eagles fell, 3-2, to the host school, Auburn-Montgomery and closed the season with a 19-3-0 record. OKWU coach Jamie Peterson said that obviously he would have liked to have gone farther in the tournament, but that his team did not disappoint.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed with the results, but absolutely proud of our guys,” Peterson said.
“We went up early, but then we went down a man with a red card. We played the majority of the game with 10 guys. And down a goal, I thought our guys showed a lot of heart and determination to fight back and send it into overtime.
“We scored with a couple of minutes left in regulation to go to overtime. It just wasn’t meant to be. We hit the posts a couple of times and had our chances to put the game away and outplayed them with 10 guys, but it just wasn’t our year this year.”
But it was a fantastic year for the program nonetheless. And Peterson said that he understands the perspective.
“I think it’s disappointing that we didn’t reach our ultimate goal, but there’s only one team that walks away with a win for their final game. And while we’re disappointed, we’re proud of the fact that the guys did a lot of firsts for the program.
“First time winning a national tournament game. First time reaching the quarterfinals. Second consecutive year of winning 19 games, which is a program best. First time the program has put three players on the All-America list: two first-team (Lucas Almeida and Lucas Cordeiro) and one third-team (Ivan Ristic) and another on the NCCAA All-America list.
“There have been a lot of good accolades for the guys. They deserve it.”
And his perspective of the positives for his team goes beyond the pitch.
“There have been some successes there,” Peterson said. “But more importantly, there were a couple of guys whose lives were changed. It showed during the national tournament and there was a real spiritual growth, which is a better measurement of our success than anything.
“That is a huge success.
“Regardless of winning a national tournament or not, that was probably the proudest I’d been of any particular moment in our program and that was seeing one of the player’s spiritual growth over four years.”
The Eagles ended the season at or near the top of the rankings. OKWU was fifth in the NAIA postseason poll and No. 1 in the National Christian College Athletics Association rankings.
“Even though we didn’t get to go to that their tournament, we still finished at the top of that poll,” Peterson said. ” That embodies what the guys did and the amount of work that they put in this year.”
And as this season has ended, Peterson said he knows he will miss this batch of seniors.
“This was the group that started everything with me. This is my fourth year and that was my first big recruiting class.
“It’s one of those bittersweet things. You hate to lose them because its your first group, but at the same time you’re proud of what they accomplished and ow they changed the face of the soccer program here at Oklahoma Wesleyan.”
But they made their mark at OKWU, and it will be a year not soon forgotten.