This season has been a long one for the Men’s soccer team but a special one nonetheless as, once again, the team has reached the ECAC Semifinal, and this time, team captain Yaya Diabagate 23’ intends to finish the job.
A senior in his final season, Diabagate scored the winning penalty in this past weekend’s game against Virginia Wesleyan in a thrilling 5-3 penalty shootout win. The moment was particularly sweet for Diabagate, who missed the penalty last season, which sent the Gophers out of the playoffs. A moment he described as “tough to swallow.”
That bitter moment, however, fueled Diabagate and others to come back for one final season; giving up was not an option when they were so close, and that moment came full circle when he stepped up to take the decisive spot kick Saturday evening, when I asked him about that moment, he said
“Last year, right after the game on that bench, me and some of the other guys decided to come back and give it one more go because we were so close, so going to penalties again and finally getting the chance to make things right was awesome and great to be there with all these guys.”
Diabagate credits much of the success to the work his team puts in not only on the pitch but, more importantly, off of it, “I think we’ve been working really hard; every day in practice, we’re accomplishing different things, focusing on the next goal,” he said. “In my freshman year, I think we won maybe three or four games, so to now getting double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons; this is definitely the next step.”
Focus now shifts to this weekend’s game against Penn State Behrend, the runners-up in last year’s ECAC Finals; when I asked Yaya about the game, he acknowledged the challenge.
“It’s going to be a tough game; PSU Behrend lost in the final last year, and they’re obviously trying to win something for their school, but for us, it’s about believing in each other and pushing each other; we understand it’s a massive opportunity to do something at Goucher that hasn’t been done for a long time, but it’s about doing the things that got us here, and that will get us over the edge.”
I asked him what has allowed the team to take the next step, whether it’s a personnel change or a mentality shift, to which he replied, “A little bit of both.” “Once you start believing in each other and pushing each other, you realize, actually, we can do this,” he said. “From day one, everything is competition, so when we get out there [on the field], all we know, regardless of the opponent or scoreboard, are competing and fighting for everything.”
Diabagate speaks as a leader for the team; now, in his second year as captain, he embraces his role, not only helping lead the team but providing an example for when he is no longer there.
“I’ve been a captain for the last two years, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount about being a leader and helping guys along. I’m here now, but I’m leaving, and we have a great group of guys behind me, so now the question is, how do we get those guys set up for the future? That’s my job right now, leading by example.”
With this season’s race almost set to run its course and the mood in the camp high, according to Diabagate, one thing is for sure: there will be no lack of confidence when Goucher takes the field this weekend, “Everyone’s really energetic; there are still some team competitions going on in practice and guys are getting after it, we’re excited.” Said Diabagate.
The game this weekend kicks off on Saturday at 2 pm ET.
By Theo Efron ’26