Spring Break and SAA Conference Play
Having taken some lumps and growing pains in February, the Vikings were eager to continue to play high level out-of conference opponents in early March and carry their momentum into SAA Conference play.
The first game in March was against SAA opponent Oglethorpe University where the Vikings outscored them 18-1, before heading out for Spring Break. Berry first faced Transylvania University in Lexington, KY where they beat their opponent 10-5 despite Coach Gilbert being ejected from the game in the 4th quarter for his 'team cheering too loudly' when killing a 3-man down penalty.
With Coach Gilbert forced to stay behind at the Embassy Suites due to his ejection penalty, Coach Peterson and Byers captained the helm in a nail-biting 7-6 loss against NCAA Tournament finalist, John Carroll University in their next game.
The Vikings Spring Break trip then continued through Baltimore, MD where the team practiced at both Coach Gilbert's High School in Hereford and Johns Hopkins University, before heading out to face his alma matter Washington College in Chestertown, MD. It was a close first half with a score of 4-2 at the half, but the 100 year storied program proved too much for the Vikings in the second half.
The Vikings returned to Mt. Berry, GA ready to run in the SAA tournament and despite an early hiccup with Centre College and their 11 seniors, the Berry squad again rebounded nicely with a quality 10-3 win at Hendrix. The Vikings youth proved to be the achilles heel in the next two games and came up one-goal short against Rhodes and a couple more against Sewanee.
The remainder of the season found the Vikings hyper-focused on both securing wins, but also keeping their goals against average low in anticipation for the 3-way tie scenario forecasted for the SAA playoffs. The diligence paid off when the regular season concluded and the dust settle with Berry College boasting the lowest defensive goals against criteria satisfied to secure a hard-earned third place finish to the regular season.
The SAA Playoffs featured a first-round rematch of Berry College vs. Hendrix where the BC squad again came out victorious with a 10-6 victory. The following week the Vikings returned to Mount Eagle to play Centre College in the SAA semi-finals, but their experienced senior class of 11 proved too much for the Vikings squad fielded by 50% freshmen.
"Overall, I am not happy with the outcome of our season (8-9), however I do know that we took significant strides gaining both National recognition, as well as developing young talent that will prove invaluable in the future," Gilbert explains. "I know I've said it before, but some teams can boast a record of 8-0 out of conference, but where will that really take you. I want to play the best competition all of the time, and will always schedule the toughest teams possible, because I know it will all pay off in our Conference play." Gilbert added "I think we went about as far as we could have this year, and I am okay with that, but our 2017 team will much better because of who we played this year, and with whom we put on the field."