LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- Dealing with the tragic loss of a beloved teammate, the Covenant men's soccer team bonded during the 2013 season and ended the year with an 11-5-4 overall record with a 5-3-1 mark in USA South play.
Before the season began, the team dealt with the loss of rising junior David Taaffe. Taaffe passed away in July due to injuries sustained in a fall while hiking in Switzerland. The squad dedicated the season in Taaffe's honor with several tributes, including wearing practice shirts with Taaffe's name and number six on the back and head coach Nathan Pifer keeping Taaffe on the official game roster for officials and scorers.
The first home match of the year was another tribute to Taaffe's life as the team honored his family before the contest. After the match ended, a 1-1 draw with Sewanee, the capacity crowd at Scotland Yard joined in singing with the team the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul," leaving very few dry eyes at the conclusion.
"I feel our team grew a lot this year through many circumstances," said Pifer, who concluded his fifth year at the helm of the program. "We had a rough start emotionally with losing David Taaffe but saw God's graciousness to us as it bonded us together in Christ and gave us a stronger appreciation for each other."
As the season progressed, the team picked up big non-conference wins over Berry, Birmingham Southern, and Emory all by 2-1 scores. The victory over Berry marked the first time in 11 years that the Scots defeated the Vikings, while the win over Emory was the first one in 33 years.
Covenant was picked to finish fifth in the preseason USA South standings, but the Scots did one spot better than that.
The Scots were just 2-2 in conference play heading into the second week of October. Junior transfer Snoopy Davidson then took over the three matches during that week.
Davidson scored five goals and assisted on three others to lead the Scots to a non-conference win at Emory & Henry, a 2-2 draw against Methodist, and a 5-1 Homecoming win over North Carolina Wesleyan. For his efforts, Davidson was named USA South Player of the Week and NSCAA Player of the Week for Division III.
Covenant wrapped up the regular season with wins at Averett (3-0) and at home on Senior Night against Piedmont (3-0) to clinch a home-field match in the opening round of the USA South tournament. Facing Averett for the second time in eight days in the tournament, Covenant fell in penalty kicks to be eliminated.
"We definitely fell short of our goal for a conference championship but we did gain confidence through some great results against teams like Berry and Emory," added Pifer. "With our disappointment of not moving on in the playoffs we as a team are hungry for next season and have already started working for next year."
Juniors Hudson Brock, Davidson, and Joel Friesen led the offensive attack with six goals apiece for the season. Brock had his first career hat trick in a 5-0 win at LaGrange. Davidson and Friesen each added a team-high five assists. Senior Garrison Dale had a strong finish to the year as he had three goals in the final two regular season matches, and five for the year.
Senior goalkeeper Shuler Polk was stellar again for the Scots as he started all 20 matches and allowed 20 goals in 1823 minutes (0.99 goals against average) while making 88 saves, third most in the USA South. Junior Hunter Harrison was once again the anchor for the Covenant back line.
2013 also saw more large crowds at Scotland Yard. Covenant averaged 503 fans per match and a total of 4,525 people took in the nine home matches. The season's largest crowd again occurred on Homecoming as 1,200 people were in attendance to watch the Scots take down North Carolina Wesleyan 5-1.
USA South Player of the Week
Shuler Polk - Sept. 2 - Defensive
Joel Friesen - Sept. 23 - Offensive
Snoopy Davidson - Oct. 14 - Offensive
NSCAA Player of the Week (Division III)
Snoopy Davidson - Oct. 14
USA South All-Conference
Snoopy Davidson - 1st team
Matt Hudnut - 2nd team
Shuler Polk - 2nd team
Hunter Harrison - 2nd team
Garrison Dale - 3rd team; All-Sportsmanship
CoSIDA Academic All-District
NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region
Hunter Harrison - 3rd team
NSCAA Team Academic Award
2012-13 Academic Year - 3.28 GPA
**This is the third in a week-long series recapping the fall sports season at Covenant. Below are links and a schedule to the rest of the season recaps.
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