After three years with records of .500 or better, the 2016 season was what many would consider a "building year" for a young Sabercat team which had just one four-year player. Despite finishing the year with a 5-14 record, Coach Jeff Pill and the Sabercats can look at the 2016 campaign with optimism, as it included high notes.
One of which came at NCCAA Regionals, where the Sabercats came close to making the Regional Final in a difficult, back-to-back test in Iowa. After Wira Wama scored a dramatic game-winner in spectacular fashion with just four seconds left on the clock in the play-ing game against Providence, the Sabercats fell to eventual regional champions North Central University the next day by a score of 0-1.
Despite the losses on the scoreboard, the team made improvements throughout the year and were hailed by their coach as "commit[ted] to the process of getting better". Being as young as they are, the current team holds promise for years to come.
- Overall Record: 5-14
- Record at Home: 2-7
- NCCAA Record: 4-4
- NCCAA All-Regional Selections:
- NCCAA All-America Selections:
- Wira Wama* (1st team, National Player of the Year)
- AD3I All-Independent:
- NCCAA Scholar-Athletes:
- Wira Wama - 43 career goals | 2nd All-Time
Coach Pill's Perspective:
"This years' team excelled in providing satisfaction to many, as we watched them dig deep and grow. We certainly had our share of difficult losses this year, some even lopsided. But, watching them play the last two games during the reginal tournament, with just 16 hours between them, did nothing but confirm in my mind that the struggles and sacrifice they endured during the season bore much fruit.
We were able to play with passion, intensity, and focus, in challenging circumstances, and almost pulled off something really special. We played some of our best soccer of the year as well.
I am particularly excited about how our younger players matured during the season. I think that if they stay together, and continue to commit, that they will put themselves into a lot more exciting and significant games, where there is a lot at stake. In fact, in many ways, as I compare this years' first-year players with the freshman group that ended up winning the national championship as seniors, I think that this years' group is ahead of them in many ways.
This is mostly because of the improvements that they showed during the year, and their approach to training. As they learn to be '12 months fit', it will only add to their performance on the field.
In addition, a thing which struck me about this years' team was their commitment to the process of getting better. They were patient, and did not waiver from their pursuits. This is a great foundation to build on. If they commit to working during the off season, and to training during the non-traditional, Spring season, I think that they may even surprise themselves."
It is safe to say that this season was a 'building project'. We made huge strides, as our play during the regional tournament testified to.
We are eagerly looking forward to our ministry opportunities together during the off season, and picking things back up in the Spring during the non-traditional season."
- Wira Wama returned for his fourth year after playing on the Papua New Guinea Men's National Team in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, and the international midfielder did not disappoint, as he was a team captain and helped the Sabercats improve over the season. Wama was named the 2016 NCCAA North Region Player of the Year, and scored the game-winner in the North Regional Quarterfinal to advance the Sabercats. Wama matched his season-best tally of 12 goals to move to second all-time in MBU Men's Soccer History with 43 career goals.
- Asa St. Lawrence joined Wama on the All-Regional team, and was more or less an unsung hero of the team until that point. Although St. Lawrence has just one goal and two assists to his name, his consistent presence in the defensive-midfield role helped stabilize the Sabercats both on attack and defense. St. Lawrence's tactical prowess was called upon often, and the Iowan was involved in the early stages of the Sabercats' attack.
- Brett Cournoyer was a team captain and the second-leading scorer with seven goals and four assists, Cournoyer offered a reliable possession outlet on the front line while scoring key goals in NCCAA play during the regular season.
- Caleb Walters added creativity to the Sabercat attack, as the Ohio native proved his versatility by playing three different positions on the year. Walters co-led the team with five assists and added three goals on the year. the Sophomore played in and started every game during the 2016 season.
For more on the Sabercats Men's Soccer Team including statistics, all-time records, and awards, visit their team page here.