Well, it finally happened. The LMU Lions (6-0-2, 5-0-2 WCC) have pulled off the ultimate victory, the one they’d been dreaming about, a win they were unable to come away with last season. They delivered this year in spectacular fashion, wrenching the West Coast Conference (WCC) crown away from No. 23 Saint Mary’s College (SMC) thanks to two late goals from Noel Caliskan in the 89th and 90th minute, respectively. When the final whistle blew, LMU came away with a convincing 3-1 victory and the title of WCC champions, their first since 2013. How sweet is that?
It didn’t come easy. The Lions were oh-so-close to the exact same achievement last year, only to lose to the Gael’s 0-2 in the 2019 season’s penultimate match. This year, SMC applied plenty of pressure on LMU, converting a PK equalizer in the game’s 40th minute which broke GK Jacob Jackson’s impressive stretch of four straight shutouts. Then, with the Lions down a man due to an inopportune red card, Caliskan produced the biggest goal of his career: sprinting like a possessed cheetah down the center of the field to knock in a game-changing goal. Duhaney Williams also deserves credit for his phenomenal assist, which dropped in perfectly between the six-yard box and the 18.
To be clear: the Lions’ season is not over. It’s nowhere near finished. In addition to being coach Paul Krumpe’s 200th career win, LMU’s conference title comes with an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament, so get excited for some postseason action.
Nevertheless, an undefeated conference slate is more than enough cause to hand out some prizes, so without further delay, our highly selective and probably biased committee will present three unique awards to the athletes that helped separate LMU from the rest of the pack.
Most Competent Goalkeeper Award: Jacob Jackson
Boy, that’s an understatement. With Jackson in goal, LMU surrendered only two points the entire season and only once allowed an opponent to score from open play. He also produced six shutouts in eight games, thanks to some of the best goalkeeping Lions fans have ever witnessed. “Before the goal yesterday, we were number one in the country in goals against percentage,” said redshirt senior Christian Wood. “The whole group as a defense is insane.”
Maestro Award: Noel Caliskan
Maestro (noun): a master, usually in an art, especially an eminent composer, conductor, or teacher. If sprinting for 90 minutes and finding the energy to overtake an entire defensive line for a game-winning goal is a method of expression, then Noel Caliskan is an artistic genius. His impeccable work ethic, hyper-focused mentality and ability to clean up defensively is unmatched by teammate and opponent, and without his ability to thread the back line to LMU’s speedy forwards, LMU may not have gone undefeated this season. Caliskan finished the regular season with three goals and three assists.
Burner Award: Duhaney Williams
Senior forward Duhaney Williams is one of the most dynamic players on the field, and his opponents know it. “If the ball gets to his feet, the whole back line starts to shiver ... he goes at people with pace and it’s different than what we’ve seen at LMU. He’s at the top of every team’s scouting report, and that just creates opportunities for other guys," relayed senior center back Nick Dauchot. Sure enough, Williams finished the year with only one goal but facilitated several chances to his teammates, producing a team-high four assists.
LMU’s achievement may actually be more impressive than you think, since SMC hadn’t lost a conference home game since 2015, and hadn’t lost at home in regulation since 2014. Nevertheless, the team is more focused on clearing another hurdle they couldn’t last season. “The [NCAA tournament] draw is this weekend, and we’re all excited,” concluded Wood. “We feel like we have a chip on our shoulder from being knocked out at home in the first round [last year]. It was a great feeling to win conference, but the general mood around the group is that it was expected. Now let’s go settle some unfinished business in the tournament.”
This is the opinion of Chris Benis, a sophomore marketing major from Seattle, Washington. Tweet comments to @LAloyolan or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.