For a program with a rich tradition of rewriting the record books, Franklin & Marshall's men's soccer team may have outdone itself in 2018 with a feat unmatched by any Centennial Conference (CC) institution.
Following another dominant regular season, the Diplomats claimed their sixth-consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament - a streak unmatched in the history of the Conference. Eventually, F&M, who was ranked No. 17 in the final coaches poll, wrapped up its campaign with a 14-4-3 record, advancing out of the NCAA First Round for the fifth time in the last six years.
To watch a highlight video of the 2018 men's soccer team, click here.
Five straight home games to open the year proved advantageous, allowing F&M to storm out of the gate with a perfect 5-0 start. The Diplomats' strong play continued throughout September as F&M wrapped up the month with an unbeaten 8-0-2 mark and the No. 5 ranking in Division III.
That momentum carried F&M throughout the regular season as the Diplomats qualified for their 10th-straight CC Tournament, and reached the CC Title game for the second year in a row thanks to a 2-0 shutout of No. 11 Johns Hopkins on Nov. 3.
F&M's bid for a second-consecutive Conference Championship fell short in heartbreaking fashion when the Diplomats lost to Haverford the next day by a narrow 3-2 2OT score. However, F&M's regular season record afforded the Diplomats one of 19 Pool C bids into the 62-team NCAA Tournament field as F&M earned hosting rights for the opening two rounds.
A 103rd-minute own goal sent the Diplomats past Western Connecticut St. by a 2-1 2OT score on Nov. 10. However, time ran out on F&M's season in a heart-stopping 1-0 loss to Eastern the following day - despite a frenzied final-minute effort.
The Diplomats' offense featured one of the most balanced attacks in program history as 14 members of the team recorded a goal, with 11 accumulating multiple tallies. Thirty-five of the 40 goals scored were assisted on, good for the second most in program history and only one shy of the record shared by the 1984 and 2015 squads.
Connor Whitacre '20 garnered All-Mid-Atlantic Region and All-CC First Team honors after leading the team with six goals and 21 starts. A.J. Kopacz '22 burst onto the scene with six goals as a first-year defender, which helped land him on the All-Region and All-CC Second Teams.
Whitacre and Kopacz led a contingent of six Diplomats honored on the All-CC Team with Ugo Okolie '19 earning his third-career All-Conference honors with a place on the Second Team, along with Ryan Fincher '19 and Ryan Corr '20, while Jim Connolly '19 received Honorable Mention recognition.