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Men’s soccer wins the NCAA Division III National Championship.
By Amy Martin
onnecticut Gov. Ned Lamont visited the Connecticut College campus Dec. 9, 2021 to congratulate the men’s soccer team for winning the NCAA Division III national championship.
“You came together at the very best moment, when people needed you to step it up. You also came together and stepped up right when this state needed you the most,” said Lamont, whose sister is a Conn graduate. “We needed something to cheer for, and I’ve got to tell you, the people of Connecticut were cheering for the Camels.”
He added, “You have a lot to be proud of, and I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
Other special guests included State Sen. Cathy Osten, State Reps. Anthony Nolan and Christine Conley, and New London Mayor—proud Conn alumnus—Michael Passero ’79 M’89.
The Camels won their first national championship Dec. 4, defeating Amherst 1-1 (4-1) on penalties at UNCG Soccer Stadium in Greensboro, North Carolina. After playing Amherst to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtimes, senior captain Lorenzo Bocchetti ’22 converted the deciding penalty after Peter Silvester ’25 stopped two spot-kicks in the shootout.
Less than 24 hours later, the tired team returned to Conn’s campus, and was greeted by cheering students, faculty and staff at a joyful reception on Tempel Green Sunday morning.
Conn’s coach Reuben Burk was first off the bus, carrying the national championship trophy, as Queen’s “We Are the Champions” blasted from the loudspeakers.
The welcome-back celebration “was a really nice gesture,” Burk told The Day newspaper. “[We] really appreciate students coming out.”
Captain Lorenzo Bocchetti ’22 told the supporters who came out for the rally: “Your support has been what it has been all season, and it’s just fantastic. It’s been a privilege to lead this great group of guys throughout the season.”
During the celebrations, Burk reflected on what it takes to win a national title.
“In order to win a national championship, you have to have a group of selfless guys,” Burk said.
“Guys that care more about that trophy that we have more than their own ego or their own reputation. That’s hard to instill because everyone goes through a recruiting process where they want what’s best for themselves, the best possible four years of what they can get from a school.
“But, once you get there, it’s no longer about you. It’s about all of us, together.”
Conn’s first-ever national title in a team sport is no accident. Roughly 50 percent of Conn students participate in athletics. It is very much a key driver of the student experience, and therefore has been a key priority for the College, which has invested in priorities such as improving facilities and hiring full-time assistant coaches to raise the standard of competitiveness.
“Ensuring athletic participation is an important component of the liberal arts experience,” said Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education Mo White. To achieve greater distinction and integration of student learning, Conn is committed to creating experiences outside of the classroom that extend intellectual enrichment, build a stronger sense of community and prepare students for meaningful lives and careers.”
Conn reached the final match by defeating Washington & Lee, 2-1, also in overtime, in the semifinals. This was Conn’s fourth straight NCAA Tournament and first trip to the Final Four; the Camels also won their first NESCAC regular season title. The team’s 18 victories are also a school record and betters the previous mark of 14 established all the way back in 1978. Additionally, Augie Djerdjaj’23 earned All American honors and Reuben Burk and assistant Andrew Storton have been named the 2021 NCAA Men’s Division III National Coaching Staff of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches.