HYDE PARK — After several Final Four appearances in recent years with no title trophies to show for them, the University of Chicago men’s soccer team finally broke through over the weekend to win the program’s first national championship.
The UChicago Maroons defeated the Williams College Ephs 2-0 Saturday to win the Division III national championship. Junior midfielder Robbie Pino scored first on an assist by senior midfielder Naz Kabbani in the 66th minute.
Junior forward Ryan Yetishefsky — whose game-winner in the double-overtime, Final Four win over Gustavus Adolphus College Thursday sent the Maroons to the title match — capped off the championship with an empty-net goal in the closing seconds.
With the win, the Maroons completed an undefeated season under first-year coach Julianne Sitch, who became the first woman to coach a men’s soccer team to a college title.
The Maroons were motivated all season by successful runs in recent years which ended just short of a championship, Sitch said in the postgame press conference Saturday.
UChicago lost in heartbreaking fashion to Amherst College in double-overtime in last year’s Final Four and made back-to-back Final Fours in 2017 and 2018, but had never reached the title match before this year.
“We talked a lot about them having this hunger from where they’ve been in the past,” Sitch said. “This year, just from the beginning, felt different — the way that they showed up; their mentality; they came in extremely fit, and they’ve held their standards extremely high all season.”
Senior defenseman Griffin Wada credited the title to “the guys who came before me” in UChicago’s program, as they set a standard for success the 2022 team built upon, he said.
“After [Yetishefsky’s empty-netter], we all ran over to that sideline and it was all of the alumni that we’d played with and we’d watched play in the past,” Wada said. “They all came and were celebrating with us. I think that’s a special moment, because we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those guys.”
Wada was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Division III championship tournament, while Pino was named Most Outstanding Offensive Player. The two — along with teammates Kabbani, Yetishefsky and senior center-back Richard Gillespie — were named to the all-tournament team.
The soccer championship is UChicago’s second team title in NCAA history, after the men’s tennis team won the Division III title in May.
The Maroons finished the season at 22-0-1, setting a school record for wins. The one tie was at New York University in a match believed to be the only one ever played between men’s college soccer teams coached by women.
“These guys have never had a female coach before,” Sitch said. “They embraced me as one of their own, and for me, that will forever be a grateful moment. … The energy, the support, the togetherness — this is a team, and we had a heck of a lot of fun this year.”