UVM’s greatest men’s soccer squad revels in parallels to 2022 run
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The UVM men’s soccer team boarded a bus Thursday morning, bound for Syracuse to take on the third seeded Orange in the NCAA quarterfinals. It’s a tremendous achievement, but it isn’t the first time the Cats have made it this far.
The 1989 UVM men’s soccer squad knew coming into the season that they had the potential to be special.
“It was interesting because we certainly we had some really good moments and some good momentum leading up to ‘89,” said UVM Hall of Fame goalkeeper Jim St. Andre.
“One of the reasons that I decided to go from Middlebury to UVM is I wanted the chance to try to get to the next level,” said former Catamount head coach Ron McEachen. “And we did.”
In his 5th year as the bench boss in Catamount Country, McEachen had built the squad up, with a ton of seniors expected to play key roles.
“We had some phenomenal guys through the spine, starting with Jimmy St. Andre in goal, Kevin Wylie, Roberto Beall in the center of the midfield, Mike Mason and Jim Warrick up front,” McEachen said.
St. Andre was an All-American goalkeeper who still holds the school records for wins, shutouts, and goals against average.
“It felt like a really good fit culturally for me,” St. Andre said of UVM. “A lot of it came back to Ron and making me feel comfortable about what he was trying to do with the team. And I think I surprised him and a lot of people including myself once I got there.”
“My whole idea was we weren’t able to get a lot of the top players, but what I did was I got great athletes and kids with great character,” McEachen said. “And I think Rob (Dow) has continued to do that.”
After dropping their first two games of the season, the 1989 Cats caught fire. 16 wins and a draw in their next 17 games carried them to the North Atlantic Conference title and the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid in more than a decade.
“I think 9 of the starters my senior year started freshman year,” St. Andre said. “So that’s almost impossible to replace that sort of camaraderie and that kind of understanding on the field.”
Playing in front of a raucous crowd at Centennial Field, the Cats downed UConn and Yale to advance to the national quarterfinals.
“We showed up in the playoffs, and people were literally like sitting in the trees so they could see the game,” St. Andre said. “They were just going nuts. It was really cool.”
The Cats would fall just one hurdle shy of the College Cup, soccer’s equivalent of the Final Four. They dropped a 2-1 decision in overtime at Rutgers, but the school and the program have never forgotten that run.
“We’ve learned a lot about how to enjoy this run from that 1989 team,” said current head coach Rob Dow. “Their stories as a team are unreal. The toughness and resiliency factor, we’ve learned that from our history in this program and we’re proud to continue to carry it on.”
That 1989 squad has kept in touch with each other and has cheered the Cats on as this year’s squad has matched their achievement by reaching the quarters...and they’re hoping the 2022 group can take it one step further.
“You have to have a little bit of good luck and a little bit of timing to make things work out, but I feel like just go that extra mile,” St. Andre said. “Reach a little bit further and don’t be afraid to be great.”
“They have such wonderful players on Syracuse, but we should be able to be competitive because we’ve got some great players as well,” McEachen said. “We’re all rooting that they come back with a victory.”
The national quarterfinal betwen UVM and #3 Syracuse is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday at the SU Soccer Stadium.
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