With only two games left in the 2016 season, the men’s soccer team headed into its Saturday evening matchup against Yale occupying the fifth spot in the conference rankings. The Bears (8-7-1, 3-2-1 Ivy) desperately needed a win in order to keep their hopes of a strong Ivy League finish alive.
For veteran forward Will Cross ’16.5, this game also meant inching ever closer to the end of his career as a Bear — a mix of urgency and intense emotions that culminated in a lifetime performance.
Cross led a routing of the Bulldogs (3-9-2, 1-4-1) with two goals and an assist, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead in the 55th minute and putting the cherry on top of Brown’s 3-1 victory with another goal with just 12 seconds remaining in the match.
The Bears are now tied for third place in the conference. A win Saturday against Dartmouth would be enough for the team to take a portion of the Ivy League title.
For his pivotal role in Brown’s victory, Cross has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: It was your second-to-last career game. What was going through your mind?
Cross: So my family and friends from home had actually come to watch me play in that game, and I think that the main thing going through my mind was validating their effort. That was probably my main concern — giving them a reason to be happy — and it motivated me a pretty significant amount. But I didn’t feel like this massive sense that things are ending. I guess that part just hasn’t really sunken in yet. It was just another game and another chance for me to play.
How did it feel after you scored the team’s opening goal? What about the second, with less than a minute to go?
I felt really good going in, particularly on my game. I don’t really know why. But I scored the goal, and I immediately felt extremely confident about my play and not really stressed out about making mistakes. It was my first goal of the season, so it ended a very burdensome goal drought that I had. So I was really relieved and was capable of relaxing enough to really enjoy the occasion, and (I also allowed) that state of mind to impact the rest of my play.
Could you talk a little bit about how the season has gone in general?
It’s tough to characterize. It doesn’t seem like there’s a general formula for our season. Obviously we would have liked to have done better in certain games in particular. But we haven’t gotten into a particular bad streak that we weren’t able to get out of. We lost to Penn last weekend, and the team was pretty devastated because it had pretty severe implications about our ability to win the Ivy League. We have also not been able to pick up the momentum that we would have wanted from winning games.
What do you think the last game is going to be like for you and for the rest of the senior class?
I think that it still hasn’t hit us that we could potentially just be done after this weekend. We are still very much in a routine of going to practice, and we have been in that routine so long that it is hard to imagine life at Brown without the team or without the season. So I don’t know how much or when it will sink in. We could still win the Ivy League and move onto the NCAA tournament. But I think people are mostly excited to play because Dartmouth is a team we will enjoy beating more than other Ivy League teams. So I anticipate us coming out and playing very hard.
When did you start playing soccer and what do you love about the sport?
I started kicking with my dad as soon as I could walk. I think the thing that I still appreciate about the game the most is the feeling that you get when you connect with someone else, and you develop an understanding with that player or group of players (that) is intangible and ineffable. It’s magical, and whether it happens at the Division I level or just playing pickup soccer with a random group of people, that’s what I enjoy the most about soccer.
What are you going to most remember from your career as a Bear?
Probably the community of the team. I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but it’s walking into a locker room every day with people you respect and who care about you. That’s the most profound aspect of being on a team, especially this team. It has very good people on it, and that is something that you take for granted if you get used to it. I’ll probably miss that support group and just the experience. You are sharing an experience with others, suffering with others, and that makes your friendships even stronger.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.