Sure, Sergio Busquets can put a soccer ball through a third floor window from 40 yards away. But soccer is not brain surgery.
For Carnegie Mellon men’s soccer, many of the players are focused on mastering both the perfect long diagonal cross and the skills necessary for brain surgery.
“I am currently working on getting my Undergraduate degree in Neurobiology,” CMU senior William Rabon tells us. “Upon graduation I plan on attending medical school to pursue my dream of becoming a neurosurgeon.”
The players on Division III Carnegie Mellon’s team are primarily at Pittsburgh’s highly acclaimed science-focused college for the academics, but the soccer team isn’t just a bookish intramural team hoping to blow off steam between Calculus exams. They have proven of late that they can ball out a little, too. Off the pitch, Rabon wants to be in an operating room, repairing a ruptured aneurysm. On the pitch he says “I would say I am most similar with Ngolo Kante, because while I am not a very flashy player, I try to be an engine for the team … doing the simple things like connecting short passes to keep the team flowing.”
He’s only one of many players on the team that excel in both the classroom and on the field. The 2022 team were ranked as high as #8 in the NCAA DIII college rankings, and the 11-4-1 (WLT) Tartans earned a berth in the NCAA tournament; the program’s 15th NCAA appearance in history. They also earned a United Soccer Coaches academic award for their team GPA of 3.63, and graduating senior Mason Shockley was named Phi Beta Kappa – one of six CMU student-athletes to be inducted into most prestigious academic honor society in the country.
In addition to continued success in the classroom, Head Coach Brandon Bowman believes the team will continue their on-field success in 2023 as well. “We are excited about the upcoming season and look to improve upon our 2022 tournament appearance. We have a team goal to win the UAA Conference, earn a bid to and make a run in the National Tournament.” The UAA is an eight-team league comprised of CMU, Emory, NYU, Brandeis, Case Western, University of Chicago, Wash U-St. Louis, and the University of Rochester. CMU’s 3-4 record and fourth-place finish in 2022 was the best conference record since 2016 for the team.
The Tartans will be replacing a number of significant contributors from the 2022 team. Six starters from the 2022 NCAA tourney starting lineup have graduated, including defender Jason Edmunds, who earned several accolades including being named to the 2022 All-ECAC first team and earning a sport on the United Soccer Coaches Region VII team.
The 2023 team is hoping they can step up and fill the shoes of those graduates, and Coach Bowman is confident he has the quality on his roster going forward to do so. “We have a strong roster of players from top to bottom that makes it difficult to pick out players individually,” says Bowman. “Brendan Schonwetter earned UAA rookie of the year last year and is returning in our midfield. In our attack, Ethan Vertal is the returning leading scorer from 2022. And in defense, a Pittsburgh native Diederik Schlingemann returns as a CB who started each game last season.” Schlingemann played locally with Winchester Thurston and Arsenal FC, helping guide Winchester to the WPIAL 1A Finals in 2019.
Senior Josh Baugh, a forward, believes that the team has the qualities needed for success. ” One of our biggest strengths is our resilience. Last season we continued to build upon the idea that our mentality can win games for us, and it showed in two of our most important matches where we pulled out a result in the later stages of the game.”
Baugh says, “As a group, we feel that playing with a chip on our shoulder for the full 90 is an integral aspect of our character and team identity.” The biopsychology major hopes to finish out his CMU career and go on to medical school.
UAA Rookie of the Year Brendan Schonwetter, a shaggy-haired defender from Louisville, Kentucky, counts the team’s leadership as one of its strongest elements. “We have a lot of great leaders as well and that makes it easy for everyone to rise to a high level of performance when training and playing games.” The Mechanical Engineering major is entering his Sophomore year.
Bowman’s boys are cerebral both in the classroom and on the pitch. The team approaches the game looking to maximize their advantages based on specific skills of the players. For Bowman, that means possession-based football. “This season, we have a highly technical team that will look to dominate the ball and dictate the tempo of the game with our passing and movement,” says the coach.
It ain’t all brains and tactics that create the conditions for the team’s success, though. Rabon notes,”We have a team that is ready to fight tooth and nail until the very last whistle.”
The Carnegie Mellon Men’s Soccer team starts the season this Friday, September 1, 7:30 pm, at home against Muskingum University.
Featured image c/o Carnegie Mellon University.