In July, when my classmate Mike Ben-Asher (GSM, ’13) texted me to ask if I wanted to represent SMG in an MBA soccer tournament at Yale University, my first thought was, “How did this guy get my phone number?” But then my second thought was, “Sure! Where do I sign up?”
From there, I joined up with Mike and Luis Marin (GSM, ’13) to start organizing our team. After a couple months of frantic scrambling, we managed to book our spot in the tournament, get funding from the graduate council (thanks, guys, and I’m not just saying that to suck up for the next time we need money from you), secure a uniform sponsor (LAMBAA), purchase some uniforms to slap that sponsor’s logo on, and assemble a squad of 16 players (first- and second-year students plus a few SMG alumni).
|Andres Biguria dribbles past the defense.|
With all that taken care of, we were ready to play some ball. A week before the tournament, we played a training match against the MBA team from Babson. The results were discouraging – we struggled mightily and ultimately lost 5-2. I thought of excuses to give myself some hope that we could still do well at Yale . We only had one substitute…we were playing on their home field, on some horrendous, 1970s-style AstroTurf…we were still reeling from Heidi Klum’s breakup with Seal . But in the end, I was pretty sure we just didn’t have it.
A week later, with our low expectations in tow, we headed down to New Haven, CT, for the Yale MBA Cup. We arrived on Friday, September 21, a day before the start of the tournament. As is customary for finely tuned athletes, our team prepared for the next day’s matches with pizza and socializing, after which the youngsters stayed out a bit longer and the oldsters retired to the hotel.
Finally, Saturday arrived, and it was time to play. The field of sixteen was divided into four pools of four teams, with the teams in each pool playing a round-robin on Saturday in an effort to secure one of the pool’s two spots in the single-elimination phase of the tournament, on Sunday.
Our pool included Virginia’s Darden School of Management, Yale School of Management’s alumni team, and Columbia Business School. Our first match was scheduled for the inhumane hour of 8:30 am against Darden. Battling our opponent, as well as sleep deprivation and the challenge of playing on a field that resembled a potato farm on the surface of the moon, we managed to score an unexpected 2-1 victory on the strength of goals from Kyle Adelman (GSM, ’14) and Sevag Khatchadourian (GSM, ’14).
|This sport is too easy for Kyle Adelman, so he attempts to make it more difficult by dribbling without looking.|
So we improbably held first place in our group as we set out to face the defending champions, Yale Alumni. Yale pinned us in our own end for most of the early going, and they were rewarded with a 2-0 halftime lead. Early in the second half, though, Andres Biguria (SMG, ’13) smashed home a volley from close range to make it 2-1. Energized by the goal, we furiously attacked for the remainder of the second half, but we simply couldn’t find the tying goal. Then, with a minute left, we conceded a third and final goal from a penalty kick. Despite the 3-1 loss, we fought admirably when it would have been easy to fold after falling behind by two goals in the first half.
The defeat left us in a tricky spot for our final match against Columbia. Although mathematically eliminated following a 1-0 loss to Darden, Columbia still wanted a say in determining who would advance. They stormed out of the gate against us and eventually took the lead, converting a (highly debatable) penalty kick to make the score 1-0. Matters got progressively worse from there, as we missed chance after chance and our frustration mounted. Finally, with 12 minutes left, we broke through with a goal from Luis Marin (SMG, ’13). Then, 5 minutes later, Adelman scored the goal of the tournament – a bomb from 20 yards that found the top corner of the net – to seal the victory.
|Luis Marin celebrates after a hard-earned victory.|
All that was left then was for Yale Alumni to play Darden in the last match in our pool. If Yale won or tied, we would advance to the next round, with Darden finishing behind us. The transitive property (Yale > BU, BU > Darden, so Yale > Darden, right?) suggested that we were a lock to advance. The reality was quite different, though, as Darden pulled out a 1-0 victory, creating a three-way tie in the standings among Darden, Yale, and us. We came out on the short end of the tiebreaker (goal difference, or goals scored minus goals allowed), and so despite having won twice and lost only once, we were eliminated from the tournament.
|Us, back when we thought we were going to advance to the second round.|
That was disappointing, but perhaps it was for the best. After three 60-minute games in the span of a day, “get up at 7:30 am tomorrow and run around for at least another hour” was low on our list of things we’d like to do (top of the list: “lie very still for several hours and try to fight off full-body muscle cramps”). Instead, we retreated to our hotel, grabbed dinner, socialized with opposing players at the official tournament mixer/dance jam/super-sweet 16 party, and called it a night.
The whole experience was outstanding. To a man, our squad was a pleasure to hang out with, and everyone battled like a champ on the field. We’ll be taking another crack at this when we play in the MBA World Cup at Dartmouth in April.
Dave Danese is a second-year student with experience in marketing and strategy within the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. He knows that the ball is round and enjoys a well-executed catenaccio.