On Saturday, November 6, 2021 Gordon College Fighting Scots brought home the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Men’s Soccer championship title in a 2-1 match, defeating defending champions, the Salve Regina University Seahawks, at home in Newport, Rhode Island.
The electrifying men’s final against the Seahawks began evenly matched, as the two teams left the first half tied 0 – 0. The teams remained neck-and-neck, ending the second half 1-1 and carrying the match into double overtime. In a spectacular climax, Scots senior captain Luckson Dambo (#7) chipped the ball over Seahawks goalkeeper Nathan Reid (#1)’s head, launching the team into victory in the final eight seconds of the game.
Reflecting on his game-winning goal, Dambo stated that, “It didn’t start with this final, it started with the games before; every single guy stepped up. We had guys scoring in other games as well that stepped up. People remember the championship game, people remember the last goal, but it’s all about the moments that lead up to that final. We have to think about every single player on the team at the practices pushing each other, making tactical decisions.”
Gordon’s championship victory is all the more impressive considering the uphill battle the Scots faced coming out of 2020. Emerging from the pandemic, nearly half of the team’s 29 players had never competed at a collegiate level. Amid health and safety concerns, the CCC cancelled the 2020 soccer tournament, which greatly disrupted the current sophomore class’ opportunity to gain valuable experience. Regardless, the team found ways to sharpen one another’s skills and maintain camaraderie.
“We did team Zoom meetings, we did challenges where we’d take videos of ourselves doing soccer challenges to keep the group all together”, Dambo stated. “Looking back, it kept us together because it was more about an interaction, a community, even though everything was online.”
Despite the team’s best efforts to practice during the pandemic, Gordon Men’s Soccer initially struggled with consistency at the beginning of the 2021 season as a consequence of a year without serious competition. Senior coach Matthew Horth commented on the challenging finer details that decided victories from losses:
“…we had a habit of making games hard for ourselves at times.…that final touch, that final pass, just little bits here and there, but they were off.”
The last time the Fighting Scots brought home the Men’s Soccer title was in 2018. A common thread Both coach Horth and Dambo recognised strong senior leadership as a common thread between these two championship-winning seasons.
Dambo attributed much of the team’s 2018 success, as well as his own personal growth since then, to the seniors of his freshman season: “…Collin Surface, Stephen Heintz, Ian Burkhart, and Josh Beveridge, those names, top guys, top leaders. When we came in as freshmen they took us into their own hands and we were able to win a championship my freshman year, and that was special because from that moment I could see how this group was.”
Coach Horth explained the impact of the seniors of the 2021 season: “…we’ve got guys who’ve seen some big time games and seen big time opponents, and they have that experience to offer the team….the guys we have, it’s a great squad. They’re about serving the underclassmen, they’re about making sure it’s a tight-knit family.”
He went on to state that as Gordon loses some of its strongest talent after this season, the program must recruit players that will one day replace them: “Any good program in the nation can become an irrelevant program if they don’t go out and get the same level of recruits or get better year by year. That will be the big challenge for 2022, 2023 and beyond.”
As Gordon College Men’s Soccer looks to the future, Dambo expressed his desire for the student body to continue lifting each other up in every endeavour: “We want to encourage the school body to keep supporting each other. We’ve got other sports starting now, so let’s support each other…not just in sports but in every aspect of life, because that’s what Gordon is all about.”