The Gustavus men’s soccer team was given new life Monday morning when the NCAA selection committee granted them an at-large bid to the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The Gusties were knocked out of the MIAC playoffs by Saint John’s University in a shootout, but their season will continue with a first round match against Hope College (Mich.) in Whitewater, Wisconsin on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
The Gusties have been led this season by one of the most talented and impressive senior classes in the program’s history. They have recorded an overall record of 59-9-13 during their four years at Gustavus along with compiling a 29-5-7 mark in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. Although this is the last collegiate season for eight seniors as Gustie student-athletes, the leadership and competitiveness they have instilled in the underclassmen will carry on for many years to come.
The 2005 senior class consists of Bobby Kroog, Grant Morlock, Jon Astry, Jordan Iblings, Chris Pinahs, Tore Johnston, Jeff Aasness, and Caleb Bousu. Along with compiling impressive overall and league records at Gustavus, this group of eight men have helped the Gusties claim two MIAC regular season titles (2004, ’05), post two second place conference finishes (2002, ’03), and earn two automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament (2003, ’04). The best team finish during this group’s tenure was an Elite Eight appearance in last season’s NCAA Division III Championship in which the Gusties sported an 18-2-3 overall record. That mark is a Gustavus record for most wins in a single season.
Kroog, a midfielder and two-time All-MIAC selection for the Gusties, has currently racked up 73 career points, including 33 goals and seven assists. These statistics put him in fifth place all-time amongst goal leaders and in a sixth-place tie with Pete Eklund for all-time career points. Kroog has been a starter for the Gusties ever since his freshman year. He had a feeling early in his career that he and his fellow classmates were going to have a special impact as a class. “I knew ever since my first year here at Gustavus that we were going to have a great group of guys in our class. We have always competed with each other from day one. That competitiveness helped me realize after the first week of preseason that we would have some good players in the upcoming years.”
In agreement with Kroog, Coach Larry Zelenz knew as early as recruiting time that this group of athletes was going to leave a significant mark on the soccer program before departing as seniors. “In looking at their credentials from high school and club soccer play, these players were a highly touted group. I could tell in the first weeks that they were going to have a definite impact as a class. These players are special because they all play important roles. At any moment in time, any one of them can serve as an inspiration to the team. During my time as head coach, there is no doubt that this senior class has been the most significant single class to come through the program.”
When asked to describe the 2005 senior class in one word, Zelenz chose to describe their legacy with the term competitiveness. “In practice and in games, these guys are constantly competing and always want a score attached to everything they do.”
Another important component of the senior class’ success has been Caleb Bousu. He has 24 career goals and 15 assists for 63 career points. Bousu, who has been a Gustie starter at the forward position for three years, ranks tenth in career points, career goals and career assists – one of only six Gusties all-time to be ranked in the top ten of all three categories. Bousu agreed with Coach Zelenz and Kroog in the early going of his freshman year that the class of 2005 was going to be dedicated. “Our group of seniors has always kept things lively from week one and we have always been competing. Even running shuttles in practice has developed into a competitive game. Everyone goes to the same lines because teams have developed in this drill during practice and all of us are competitive and want to win every day. After going to the NCAA Tournament our sophomore year, we knew more good things were only yet to come.”
The 2005 senior class has left their mark on Gustavus’ record books. Both individually and as a senior unit, the 2005 class has set the bar for the program’s future. More importantly than numerical records, these eight men continued a strong work ethic that was present before they arrived as freshman and have instilled a renewed sense of competitiveness that will be carried on for seasons to come.
Gustavus had wind put back in its sails Monday morning when the NCAA selection committee informed them of their spot in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The Gusties will look to take advantage of the at-large bid in their first-round contest against Hope College, which is making its ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the program’s history and third since 2002.
The Gusties, led by an impressive and special group of eight senior men, will look to make their third trip to the NCAA Tournament extend farther than their Elite Eight appearance in 2004. Gustavus will look to improve on its current record of 13-2-4 by shooting for the magic number six. This is the number of wins the Gusties need to set another new school record for most wins in a single season (19) and become the 2005 NCAA Division III National Champions.