After 27 Years, Men’s Soccer Returns to Nationals

When The King’s College was based in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. (1955-1994), TKC Athletics earned a reputation for excellence. In light of this history, King’s congratulates the successes of the Men’s Soccer team this season.

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When The King’s College was based in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. (1955-1994), TKC Athletics earned a reputation for excellence among colleges in the region. The College’s athletic teams, the Purple Knights, won numerous championships between the years of 1979-1992, with Men’s Soccer becoming national champions in 1985 within the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) D1. In both 1990 and 1991, Men’s Soccer Coach Tom Engstrom was named the national Coach of the Year in the NCCAA. During the Briarcliff years, King’s even hosted a beloved annual sports tournament for East Coast Christian colleges, which included categories in basketball, table tennis, running, cheerleading, alumni free throw, volleyball, chess, bowling, and a barbershop quartet.[1]

Basketball Tournament programs
Early programs from Tourney, which was the brainchild of the College’s athletic director Norm Wilhelmi. Brochures courtesy of Norm’s son Jay.

In light of this rich history, King’s congratulates the recent successes of the Men’s Soccer team this season. This fall, Men’s Soccer earned a spot at a National Championship for the first time since the Purple Knights played at NCCAA Nationals in 1991. Because the College’s relocation occasioned affiliating with a new association, this was the first year that King’s played at United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Division 2 Nationals.[2] It was also the first year that Men’s Soccer qualified to the playoffs in the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (HVIAC), one of three conferences within the USCAA D2.[3] The present-day athletic teams have a lion as their mascot, and navy and white as their colors (although a “vintage” line of King’s Gear is available that sports the classic purple and white).

The College has been steadily building out its athletic department in the last decade. The College had no athletic offerings when the New York City campus opened, and club sports were added several years later. Efforts ramped up in November 2009 when Sean Horan, the first athletic director, was hired, says Dean of Students David Leedy. The Women’s Soccer team was added in 2012 with the arrival of Bryan Finley, who currently directs athletics at King’s. Recent years have boasted a number of All-Conference Team, All-Academic Team, and Player of the Week athletes.

This year, TKC Men’s Soccer swept the year-end conference awards. Men’s Soccer Head Coach Tom Harman and assistant coaches Todd Phillips and Matt Anderson won Coaching Staff of the Year. Edvin Loefgren (BUS ’21) won Player of the Year, and Spencer Smith (HUM ’22) won Rookie of the Year. Loefgren and Smith were the two highest goal scorers in HVIAC this year.

[WATCH: Harman, Loefgren, and Smith reflect on soccer season highlights.]

Men's Soccer Team 2018
This fall, TKC Men’s Soccer earned a spot at a National Championship for the first time since the Purple Knights played at NCCAA Nationals in 1991.

Within the USCAA, teams can qualify for the National Championship one of two ways: each of the champions of the three conference playoffs qualify to Nationals, and the remaining three spots are distributed at large based on regular conference play. Although King’s lost to SUNY-ESF at the HVIAC playoffs, their 10-2 record from the regular season earned them an at-large spot. The TKC Lions were the 4th seed.

At Nationals, held November 9-12 in Virginia Beach, Va., the Lions lost both games but brought back several USCAA awards. Harman was awarded USCAA Coach of the Year, Smith was named USCAA Player of the Year, and both Smith and Loefgren were named USCAA First Team All-American.

Meanwhile, the Women’s Volleyball team had a successful fall season as well. Under the direction of coach Alexandra (Rollis) Salavitch (PPE ’15), the team won nine games, the most since the program was started in 2012, says Finley. They finished eighth in the USCAA Power Rankings, just missing qualifying for the USCAA National Championships, since only the top six teams advance. Samantha Klozik (BUS ’22) was named HVIAC Rookie of the Year and the team looks forward to the 2019 season.

The Men’s Soccer team is optimistic about their future. Smith says, “After getting the bid to attend Nationals, our goal for next year is to win the conference, that way we go through to Nationals but have a conference championship as well.”

After the Men’s Soccer team returned to campus, Athletic Director Bryan Finley said, “By all counts, the men on the team were gentlemen in everything they did over the weekend. I am proud of them for wearing the King’s uniform. In reflection, I think we saw a very young King’s team with eight starters who are frosh or sophomores going up against two teams heavy with juniors and seniors. I believe this will serve as a great learning experience for our guys and will benefit them as soccer players and as young men.”

Bill Robinson (’91), Jay Wilhelmi (’75), and Hal Smith (’67) contributed to this story.

Did we miss something? Questions, comments, memories, and notes about additional facts or resources should be directed to Editorial and News Director Rebecca Au-Mullaney and The King’s College Historian Emily Schatz.

[1] Hal Smith (’67), who served as Dean of Men and Associate Dean of Students from 1969-78, remembers that often players from other teams would stay in the dorms during Tourney. “You wouldn’t believe the number of mattresses! There was a feeling about that tournament. It was intense. We hated Gordon, we hated Nazarene, but they could be sleeping in the room with you. It was one of the most unique things I have experienced in my life. Tourney was camaraderie, fellowship, a lot of angst: it was an unbelievable thing that Norm [Wilhelmi] came up with.”

[2] Bryan Finley, the athletic director at The King’s College, says that with the change in location, as well as the smaller size of the student body, it made the most sense to join the USCAA instead of reaffiliating with the NCCAA. The only two NCCAA colleges nearby have much larger athletic budgets, practice spaces, and numbers of student athletes, whereas the USCAA allows the College to compete with comparable schools in the New York City area.

[3] The HVIAC includes 10 colleges in the greater New York City area that do not offer financial aid based on athletic ability.

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