The last time Stetson reached an Atlantic Sun Conference Men’s Soccer Final the Hatters had everything going for them. They were the league’s defending tournament champs. They were the league’s regular season champs. They were at home as the top seed.
And they lost.
Fast forward three years. Stetson returns to the finals for the third time in five years after outlasting ETSU in Friday’s semifinals. A win will help erase the memories of 2006 and send this set of Hatters to the NCAA Championship.
“Our goal is to try and get to the NCAA each season,” head coach Logan Fleck said. “Personally, it is something that I have experienced before as a coach and I would definitely like for my kids to experience.”
If the Hatters are going to get there, they will need another strong effort from the quartet of seniors: Set Carpintero, Griffin Gilstrap, Robert Hodge and Kevin Munz.
Hodge, the 2009 A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year, converted a penalty kick late in the first half while Carpintero added an assist on Stetson’s first goal. Munz and Gilstrap made life miserable for the ETSU defense with their constant pressure and numerous scoring opportunities.
“As seniors, we have played in a final before and what it is like to lose,” Hodge said. “We know what it means to the team and what it means to be a student-athlete on a side like Stetson. Our collective leadership seems to help the team and that’s good.”
That leadership seems to rubbing off in a good way on the younger Hatters. If they can leave anything with their teammates, Coach Fleck hopes it will be a championship title and a tradition that sees Stetson contend annually.
“That is our whole mindset, mine, my hard-working assistant coach Eric Dutt as well as the players,” Fleck noted. “These guys give us great leadership.”
A match-up with No. 5 Mercer awaits on Sunday.
“They don’t look like a No. 5 seed to me,” Fleck said. “The way they played today and the pressure they put on was great, especially down a goal and having to come from behind. They have a couple kids healed up. I think it will be a very tough match. I’ll be losing sleep and looking at game film all night long.”
Be sure to follow the action live on AtlanticSun.org.