St. Thomas Men's Soccer has improved from nine wins in 2014, to 12 in 2015, to a school-record 20 wins in 2016, to 22 victories in 2017.
The chief architect of that progress, UST head coach Jon Lowery, today was named a repeat recipient of the United Soccer Coaches Division III North Region Coach Staff of the Year award. The award went to eight regional staffs in each of the three NCAA levels I, II and III.
Lowery's No. 4-ranked St. Thomas team lost in the national quarterfinals, 1-0 on the road at No. 5-ranked North Park (Ill.). The Toms (22-2) had a 19-game win streak halted and fell one win shy of a return trip to the national semifinals. St. Thomas won 3-0 the previous day over No. 10-ranked Otterbein -- the team's 33rd victory in a row when it scores multiple goals.
The 2017 UST squad broke a school record for goals with 56.
A 2016 National Coach of the Year and the 2016 and 2017 Conference Coach of the Year, Lowery has a six-season record of 84-28-13 at St. Thomas (.724 win clip) for 125 games. He's guided St. Thomas to back-to-back MIAC regular-season and playoff championships.
The Tommies missed the NCAA playoffs for 20 consecutive seasons from 1996-2015 but was back in the national field this fall for the second season year in a row. The Toms went 4-1 in NCAA playoff games last season, losing 2-1 to eventual national champion Tufts in the national semifinals.
Tom Kleczewski and Casey Holm are Lowery's assistant coaches. Kleczewski has coached 10 seasons with Lowery, including three at Hamline University before coming to St. Thomas in 2012. Holm is in his second season with the Tommies.
Lowery led the 2016 UST team to the program's first conference regular-season title in 21 seasons and first NCAA trip since 1995. That unit won the program's first crown in the 14-year history of the conference playoffs, and the 2017 squad swept both MIAC crowns again.
His recent Tommie teams have recorded three consecutive defeats of region power Loras -- 2-1 in Dubuque in 2014 (ending the Duhawks' 30-game home unbeaten streak); 2-1 at home in 2015; and 1-0 last weekend at home in the NCAA second round.
Lowery graduates 10 seniors, led by All-America and MIAC Player of the Year Shae Bottum. The team returns nearly 20 varsity players, including four juniors, plus four freshmen who were big contributors during the postseason.
The Toms have won 32 of their last 36 games since late last season, including an 11-2 record in postseason play. That includes a current streak of 17 consecutive home victories. The Toms went 12-1-2 at home last season and 13-0 this season. They are 27-5-1 in their last 33 games away from campus. They had a school-record 16 shutouts last season, and this fall recorded 13 more. St. Thomas outscored foes last season 41-13, and this year had a 56-16 advantage.
This year's team combined to score 10 goals against two UMAC conference top-tier teams: Northwestern-St. Paul and UW-Superior. They combined for 14 goals in three victories against perennial MIAC conference contenders Gustavus, St. John's and Macalester (playoff).
Bottom -- the conference Player of the Year and a 2016 All-America honoree -- broke a 30-year-old school record for season assists. During the Nov. 11 UW-Superior win, he recorded his 14th assist of the season, and added No. 15 on Nov. 19 at North Park. He scored the game's only goal against Loras and the first goal against Otterbein.
In 88 career games, Bottum had 66 points (21 goals), including 13 game-winning goals. The Tommies went 32-1 in games on Bottom's career when he scored a goal or an assist (28 wins in row).
Justin Oliver, a first-year transfer and senior forward, had 16 goals and four assists this season to lead all MIAC players with 36 points. His twin brother Tyler Oliver had seven goals and 10 assists for 24 points.
The Tommie men have found success on and off the field. They have six current non-freshman varsity players with grade-point averages of 3.70 or better, led by sophomore Drew Winkoski with an unblemished 4.00 grade-point average while majoring in Engineering.
Others at 3.70 or better are:
- junior Andrew Stuempfig (Management major);
- sophomore Troy Louwagie (Engineering);
- senior Kevin Van Lieshout (Economics);
- senior Shae Bottum (Economics);
- sophomore Andrew Shirley (Management).