INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Wesley College men's soccer team was named the most improved team in NCAA Division III men's soccer for the 2018 season, as confirmed by the NCAA on Tuesday.
Wesley men's soccer recorded an 11.5-game turnaround from the 2017 season to the 2018 season, which tied the 1999 University of Puget Sound Loggers for the largest single-season improvement in NCAA Division III history.
In 2017, Wesley posted a record of 3-15, only to improve to a record of 16-5-1 in the 2018 season, including a record of 4-1-1 in the Atlantic East Conference and advancing to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Final Four.
Under the direction of 29th-year head coach Steve Clark, the Wolverines were led by the Atlantic East Conference Offensive Player of the Year senior Chimaobi Ikwuagwu and Atlantic East Conference Defensive Player of the Year Matthew Dina.
"I think the key to the turnaround this year was the team pulling together," said Clark. "It started early in the season in order to start gaining some momentum. We did have some adversity throughout the season, some injuries and tough losses, but we always found a way to bounce back and regain the momentum."
After being picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic East Conference Preseason Poll, Wesley would set new program records in wins in a season (16) and shutouts (9). Their 16 wins in 2018 would be more wins than the previous three seasons combined.
Wesley would advance to the ECAC Championship Semifinals after downing former Capital Athletic Conference foe, Penn St. Harrisburg, 1-0 in double-overtime in the opening round and defeating the host Stevenson Mustangs, 3-2, less than 24 hours later in the ECAC Pod Finals. Wesley's record-setting season would come to an end in the ECAC Championship Semifinals against the eventual champion, Drew, 3-2. Despite the loss, Wesley scored two goals in the final eight minutes of the game looking to force overtime.
"We lost Chimo (Ikwuagwu) in the Atlantic East playoffs, which was a big blow to us, but we found people to step up and rise to the occasion during ECAC's. It was an amazing run during the postseason and now we look forward to building on the success for next season."