And then it was over.
A season that carried with it so much hope was pushed away in a penalty shootout loss to Oral Roberts in the first round of the Summit League tournament.
After a scoreless regulation and overtime, UMKC fell 7-6 on penalties after a whopping 18 players took turns to shoot.
The loss was the anticlimax to a season in which the Roos were conference regular season champions and finished 10-5-3, giving head coach Rick Benben his 100th career victory. Seniors John Bayron Sosa and Brian Quintana were named the Summit League offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively. Benben was the conference coach of the year for the fourth time (‘99, ‘01, ‘03, ‘10) in his 13-year career.
“The loss is still fresh,” Benben said. “The disappointment is still there.”
Benben instead prefers to look at the accomplishments of the season and hope for the future.
“But we had a great season,” Benben said. “We did a lot of really good things. We competed in every game. Our level of play has been very high these last few years.”
A big reason for the high level of play has been a few of the outgoing players.
Sosa was the heart of the offensive attack, and Quintana and senior goalkeeper Ken Cooper were the key reasons UMKC was so stingy in defense.
Replacing those players will be difficult.
“We have a balanced recruiting class coming in,” Benben said. “And we had some younger players step up so we will be able to maintain a competitive level despite the losses.”
Benben mentioned sophomore midfielder Tom Black as a key to the Roo’s success next season.
Black showed his versatility as a box-to-box midfielder and even filled in at centerback when Quintana missed time late in the season.
Freshmen midfielders Donovann Castro and Zachary Balthazar will be asked to provide some of what Sosa brought to the attack.
Junior striker Jimmy Simon looks to build off a first-team all-Summit League recognition, and classmate Diego Rojas will be given a chance to become more than just a super-sub. Another junior, midfielder Luke Harman, will figure into the attack as well.
The key concern for UMKC next season could very well be the defense, as the Roos lose their starting goalkeeper and both centerbacks to graduation.
Cooper leaves as the UMKC record-holder in a number of goalkeeping categories.
His replacement will be sophomore David Sarabia, who garnered second-team All-Summit League honors this season as a forward.
“David was recruited as a goalkeeper, and that’s his first love,” Benben said, himself a former goalkeeper. “He’s already working on it again.”
Quintana and Coady Andrews were reliable and effective in front of Cooper all season. Replacing them may be more of a chore. Junior Josh Lind and freshmen Jeffrey Stezovsky and Tom Stroh all saw considerable time in defense, but were mostly asked to play wide.
“Every year, players come in and players leave,” Benben said. “Fortunately we have better players coming through nowadays.”
So the high of beating Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis at home to win the conference gives way to the low of losing to Western Illinois to end the regular season.
Beating Oral Roberts 4-2 on homecoming eventually loses its luster after the Golden Eagles end UMKC’s hopes of an NCAA tournament appearance.
The joy of watching Sosa, Cooper, Quintana and Andrews for four years turns to the sad realization that their college soccer careers are over.
Another year, and one with so many accomplishments ends, and the feeling is only bittersweet.