That was all the Boston University men’s soccer team needed on the final day of the 2013 season against Bucknell University to reach its first-ever Patriot League Tournament. The Terriers (2-0) outshot the Bison 23-14 that afternoon and were even up a player for most of the match when Bucknell took a red card in the 67th minute.
But things were not meant to be.
The Terriers fell in heartbreaking fashion in overtime, 1-0, on a disappointing Senior Day. Senior defender Kelvin Madzongwe said the game left a bitter taste in his mouth, which is fueling the fire for the 2014 campaign.
“It was a very disappointing end to the season,” Madzongwe said after BU’s 1-0 win over Iona College on Sunday. “We’ve gotten back and sat down and spoke about [the game]. What happened last year has been good for us…It gave us time to think about it and prepare for [this season].”
Madzongwe arrived to Commonwealth Avenue after he played for the Zimbabwe U-20 National Team in his home country. As a freshman in 2010, he earned the America East Conference Rookie of the Year accolade for his stalwart efforts on defense. Nationally, Madzongwe was named a Second-Team Freshman All-American— quite the honor for a first-year player.
His sophomore year was just as good, and he earned the America East Defender of the Year award after he helped the Terriers post six shutouts on the year.
Over the last two seasons, however, it has not been as bright for the promising young defender.
Even before the Terriers really got into the full swing of the 2012 campaign, the team was dealt a big blow. Madzongwe, who had been the anchor to one of the nation’s best defensive corps, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
The injury not only cost the Terriers its top defender, but also pushed some younger, inexperienced players into prominent roles. As a result—instead of fighting for an NCAA berth—the Terriers finished the season 6-8-4.
Madzongwe came back in 2013 trying to put all of the knee questions behind. But early in the year, the same joint once again began to flare up, causing him to miss about a month of game action because of the injury. He started just eight games all of last season.
The senior defender admits the last two seasons have been difficult for him to get things back to normal.
“The past year and half has been really tough on me,” Madzongwe said. “I was trying to get my head together with the injuries. But now I’m starting to get back little by little. My knee still hurts a little bit, but I’m just moving forward with it. I’ve been trying hard and the physical trainers have really helped a lot with that too.”
Physically, Madzongwe is almost back to the way he was before he suffered the injury. When he’s on the field, he tries to block out all of the issues his knees have given him the past, attempting to just focus on the game at hand.
“For now I try not to think about it,” Madzongwe said of his knee. “So I try just moving around and not think about the knee, and just play my game. I think it helps my mind just relax. That’s been a big factor, like I just forget about the knee, that I had an ACL injury. I just try and concentrate on the game and help the team out the best way that I can.”
So far, Madzongwe has been true to his word. The Terriers have not allowed a single goal through the first two games of this season.
Coupled with junior defender Jeroen Blugh, BU once again has a formidable backfield that makes it tough for any opponent not only to score, but also to even hold significant possession. To put it into perspective, BU’s offense has 47 total shots this season, while their opponents have combined to amass just 17.
Two early non-conference wins against Fordham University and Iona (0-1-1) have given the Terriers some early momentum as they move into the middle part of their schedule, which includes tough draws against the United States Naval Academy and rival Boston College. Madzongwe said the first two wins are huge for the team even though they did not come from within the Patriot League.
“The confidence is there within the guys,” Madzongwe said. “We’ve been fighting harder and we’re realizing we can be a good team moving forward…The way we’ve started right now is really good. It’s a confidence booster.”