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    Tuesday, April 23, 2024

    Silvester’s saves provide a lift for Conn College men’s soccer team during postseason run

    Connecticut College goalie Peter Silvester makes a save against Hamilton in the NESCAC men’s soccer tournament quarterfinal on Oct. 28 in New London. (Connecticut College photo by Sean D. Elliot)
    Connecticut College head coach Reuben Burk, right, gives instructions to forward Jake Creus in the NESCAC men’s soccer tournament quarterfinal against Hamilton on Oct. 28 in New London. (Connecticut College photo by Sean D. Elliot)

    New London – The Connecticut College men’s soccer team is a confident bunch.

    And the Camels should be.

    Under the guidance of coach Reuben Burk, the Camels have developed into a force on the Division III level. They won the school’s first national championship in any sport two years ago.

    A number of players from that 2021 title team have helped the Camels stage another deep postseason run that has reached the third round of the NCAA tournament.

    Advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in program history, Conn College will face Montclair State (19-2-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Fredericksburg, Va., while Mary Washington and Washington College meet in the other game. The winners face off at 1 p.m. Sunday for the right to play for the national championship.

    “It feels great to be playing still so late in the year,” junior Jake Creus said after practice earlier this week. “It’s a privilege to keep coming out here. A lot of other teams are done by now. “

    The Camels (12-1-6) are a confident bunch for another reason.

    They have junior Peter Silvester in goal.

    “He’s a very good shot stopper,” Burk said. “He has a lot of confidence.”

    Silvester’s resume backs that up.

    With Silvester between the posts, the Camels are a remarkable 5-0 in tournament games – NCAA and New England Small College Athletic Conference – decided by penalty kicks since 2021.

    During the 2021 NCAA Championship run, Silvester came off the bench and served as the team’s designated goalie in the pressure-packed shootout situations. He made two terrific saves in both the first round win over Salem State (3-2 pks) and title victory over Amherst (4-1 pks).

    In a second round win over Franklin and Marshall on Saturday in Lancaster, Pa., Silvester delivered again, making a huge save in the seventh round.

    Then Creus buried his penalty kick to send the Camels to the next round

    “Any time we go into a pk shootout, we know we have a chance with Peter,” Creus said. “He gives us that confidence when we’re shooting them because we know at some point he’ll make a save and give us a chance to win.”

    Silvester is not a mind reader, it just seems that way. He stays calm despite knowing the percentages favor the shooters.

    He looks for tendencies so he can make educated guesses.

    “I’m just confident in myself that if I dive the right way, I’m going to save it,” said Silvester, who owns a sparkling 0.84 goals against average. “Before each penalty, I tell myself that I’m going the right way. Eventually, self-belief helps me save the penalties.”

    Even just one save can provide the Camels with a huge lift.

    “Definitely takes the pressure off,” Burk said. “At the end of the day, everyone still has to make theirs but it gives them a little internal boost knowing we always have a chance because Peter is in net.”

    The Camels also are very good at converting from spot. Before the NESCAC tournament begins each season, they spend time taking penalty kicks at the end of practice.

    Burk designates his shooters prior to any tournament games, so they’re mentally prepared for the moment.

    The Camels possess the mental toughness and tenacity to rise to the occasion in big situations. It’s been a trademark of the program in recent years.

    They’re hoping their postseason run will continue this weekend. First, they have to knock off Montclair State, which has Division III scoring leader in Amer Lukovic who has 33 goals.

    They certainly have enough confidence and goalie to pull it off.

    “We’ve faced a variety of situations and we’ve always managed to find a way,” Creus said. “I think it goes to the unity and the sense of family that we have just to have each other’s backs in these hard moments.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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