The LaGrange College men's soccer team clinched the Collegiate Conference of the South Conference regular-season championship last week. The title is a first in the team's new conference—and the Panthers' first regular-season crown in the program's history.
The season also marks the first time since 2018 that the team has reached double-digit wins, with the Panthers finishing 10-4-2 overall and 4-0-2 in the conference.
"This current group of student athletes will go down as one of the most talented teams we have ever had, and this season has shown that," said Head Coach Ryan Dickson, who is in his fifth year coaching the team.
"For me personally, this year will be something I will never forget. The team has been a joy to work with, and I am very proud of every one of them and what they have achieved."
He isn't surprised to find the Panthers as the top seed moving into the conference championship.
"We always believed that we were good enough, especially after the recruiting class that we brought in and returning all of our players from last year," he said. "We were so close in a couple of key games last season; that gave us the belief that we could challenge for first place this fall."
Senior Enrique Hernandez leads the team in scoring with 20 goals and 48 points. Hernandez not only tops the conference in scoring, but also has the second-highest goal tally in all of NCAA Division III.
In goal, sophomore Andrew Cole has played 13 games as keeper and tied a Panther season record with six shutouts.
"The success we are currently having didn't happen overnight," said Coach Dickson. "It took many years of current and past players to set an everyday expectation that they will bring their best effort on the pitch and in the classroom, and if you didn't you wouldn't see any playing time no matter how good you are."
With the regular season behind them, the Panthers are looking ahead to post-season play, which begins Saturday at home. The team will face the winner of Wednesday's match between Piedmont and Berea.
"Saturday's game will be a tough test because either team will be coming off a run of good results that will give them confidence to get a result on Saturday," Dickson said. "But we believe if we turn up and play our game, we are good enough to beat anyone."