Ohio Wesleyan just one win away
Bishops use motivation from robbery to blast Montclair State
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Win or lose Ohio Wesleyan is in the mood to create lasting memories of a visit to the final site of the Division III men’s soccer championship.
The Bishops initially received a rude awakening upon their arrival on Wednesday when two of their team vans were broken into in broad daylight and several players lost personal items such as laptop computers, wallets, uniforms, practice gear, soccer shoes, etc.
The robbery has not distracted the Bishops, and they can hold up their 4-0 victory against Montclair State in the national semifinals at Blossom Stadium on Friday night as evidence they are focused on the task at hand.
The victory also was head coach Jay Martin’s 607th career victory, which ties him on the NCAA all-time win list with Joe Bean, who won his games with three different teams from 1962-2006.
Ohio Wesleyan (22-2) advanced to Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. ET final where it will play Calvin for the right to hoist the championship trophy.
“I was fortunate enough to not have anything stolen,” Ohio Wesleyan senior forward Travis Wall said. “I could see the looks on everybody’s faces when it happened. We were in disbelief. It certainly adds extra motivation.”
Martin was quick to tell his players that the things stolen were of the material kind and they could still make the most of the trip by playing their best soccer.
“As soon as [Martin] talked to us, he stated the fact that we would never be able to get this opportunity back,” Wall said, who scored his team’s second goal of the match. “Hearing him say we can buy new laptops and iPods, we forgot about [the robbery] it after our first practice here.”
The Bishops came out extremely sharp in their play. Jon Stegner gave Ohio Wesleyan the early lead with a goal off a rebound in the seventh minute.
Wall found the net in the 30th minute, and Tyler Bryant added another in the 36th minute as the Bishops took a 3-0 lead into halftime.
Montclair State, 19-4-3, was not able to recover from the first-half onslaught.
“Things kind of got out of control in the beginning of the game,” said Red Hawks coach Todd Tumelty, whose program was making its first national semifinal appearance. “Hopefully, we can come back here and they know what it is like to experience something like this.”
Martin had a feeling that his team was ready to produce a top-notch performance.
“The guys have been loose as a goose in the last two practices we’ve had in San Antonio,” Martin said. “I could tell today that they were very anxious to play. They were antsy all day. I felt real good going into the game, but I didn’t expect 4-0.”
Matt Bonfini scored Ohio Wesleyan’s last goal when he stole the ball from Red Hawks’ goalkeeper Anthony Rogic and put the ball into the empty net in the 53rd minute.
They were a proud group after realizing they helped their coach tie the all-time NCAA men’s soccer mark for career victories.
“Jay has been around a while,” Bryant said. “He has been working for this and deserves it more than anybody. I think on behalf of our team that it is a very special opportunity to get to do this with Jay. We’re a family, and Jay is our leader.”
Martin doesn’t want his team thinking about trying to secure the record for him. Instead, he wants them focused on winning the national title.
“Breaking the record is inconsequential to me,” Martin said, who led his program to the 1998 national title. “I can’t say that often enough. I’m going to break the thing whether it is tomorrow or next year. The focus has to be on our players. The record is just because I’m freaking old.”
It will still be in the back of his team’s mind.
“I said something before the game to everybody,” Wall said. “We are out here playing soccer for fun. We’re competitive, but it is our coach’s living to coach us. Our coaching staff works 365 days a year of trying to get us where we are going to be tomorrow. It adds extra motivation to win for Jay and our other coaches.”