North Park: talar du svenska?
By Kevin Shepke, North Park Sports Information
Whether they're speaking English, Spanish, Swedish or any of the other seven languages they know fluently, the goal of the North Park men’s soccer team has always been the same: win the national title.
Although they came up a bit short during the 2012 campaign, the Vikings took a major step forward and are poised for a serious run during the 2013 season.
“This year’s team was definitely the deepest team we have ever had. We were able to substitute more freely and get more players in each game,” said 14th-year head coach John Born. “I also think we were more of a close knit group than last year. We have a very diverse team with many different backgrounds, collectively, we speak seven languages. It is always a bit of a challenge to mold the individuals into one cohesive group. This year’s team embraced the challenge and came together.”
North Park finished the regular season on a 14 game unbeaten streak and earned a spot in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin tournament championship game for the third consecutive season. The Vikings overall record of 13-3-5 was the best under Born since the 2006 season. Their 13 wins represented the tenth consecutive year the men's soccer team has won 10 or more games.
“Going into every season, we feel we should win. Our goal is not mediocrity. If as a team or as a coach you do not set your sights on great things, they will never happen,” Born said. “When I arrived here at North Park 14 years ago, we talked about winning a national championship. Maybe I am too much of an optimist, but I have gone into every game thinking we were going to win and I am pretty sure the players feel the same way.”
The Vikings earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Division III National Tournament, their third-straight trip to the tournament and fifth overall since the 2005 season. They opened with a 4-1 win over Washington University, the largest margin of victory for a North Park squad in its tournament history. In the Regional Championship game, the Vikings dropped a hard fought 1-0 decision to eventual Final Four participant, Loras College. The loss to Loras not only ended the Viking's season, it also ended the team's 17 game unbeaten streak.
“There were some great things accomplished with this team,” Born said. “We finished the year ranked 21st in the final NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America) poll as well as the D3Soccer.com poll and we played a very even game with Loras, so we are clearly on the same level as these teams. The goal for next year is to find a way to defeat them. The players have already done a great job of setting high expectations for next year,” Born said. “We return 9 of 11 starters and I know they are hungry for more. With a solid off-season program, continued team building and a good recruiting class…we expect to take another step towards our ultimate goal.”
Academically, the Vikings were also one of the elite programs in Division III as they earned the NSCAA Team Academic Award for the seventh time in the last nine years.
“That’s the area I’m most proud of,” Born said. “Our collective GPA the last two semesters was 3.2 and we firmly believe and promote the adage that “Success Breeds Success”. The credit here goes to the players, as they have embraced the concept and have made my job easy.”
The Vikings standard of excellence for 2013 and beyond is set. In any language, the Vikings will be a force to be reckoned with.