The Saint Louis men’s soccer team is having a historic season. Across Hermann Stadium, there are banners which boast the historic program’s successes. The banners read “10 National Championships,” “49 NCAA Appearances,” “17 Conference Championships” and “79 All-Americans.” After this weekend, the Billikens’ soccer team has already forced the rewrite of two of those banners—and they have the opportunity to take down all four.
Chandler Vaughn, from Woodbridge, Va., is a communication major in his fourth year of undergraduate education, looking for a fifth year to continue education alongside his soccer career. Chandler has been playing soccer since he was about five years-old. He started playing t-ball, but always went to his older brother’s soccer practices at night. One weekend, Chandler was kicking the ball around with his brother before practice. The coach came up to them and asked if Chandler wanted to join the practice for the day. He has been in love with the sport ever since.
Chandler has been on the Saint Louis men’s soccer team for two seasons now. His position as the left midfield/backfielder has had a huge impact on the team. His love for the sport comes from his passion to be with other people that have common interests as him. Chandler says, “From a younger age, soccer was an escape from everything going on in my life. I was able to find competitiveness and drive in the sport.”
The Saint Louis men’s soccer team started the A-10 conference tournament with a win against Davidson, 2-0. The next game played was against Fordham, where the team had a victory in overtime penalty shootouts. In the championship game on November 14, against Duquesne, they prevailed 2-1. In a battle to become the A-10 champion, the Saint Louis men’s soccer team came out on top. The team will now advance to the NCAA tournament with an automatic bid. They will face the winner of the Maryland-LIU matchup.
When asked if Chandler thought this season would be special before it started, he responded with, “Everyone was ready to buy in.” Chandler explains that going into this season, the team was already feeling good from last season. The team atmosphere is said to be positive, yet competitive. Chandler alludes to how every person has a role on the team, ranging from every minute of play to no time on the field. Every person lifts everyone else up, cheering for individual and team success. Some key players of this season include the top goal-scorer, Simon Becher, and his primary connector, Johnny Klein. Patrick Schulte is currently one of the best goalkeepers in the nation. The team boasts the A-10 Coach of the Year in Kevin Kalish, as well as the Offensive and Defensive Players of the year with Simon Becher and Kipp Keller. Five of the men belong to the A-10 All Conference team (Kipp Keller, AJ Polazzao, Johnny Klein, Patrick Schulte and Simon Becher); Mujeeb Murana belongs to the second team, with freshmen Isaiah Parker and Seth Anderson claiming All-Rookie honors.
Chandler explains that off the pitch, many teammates play a crucial role on the sideline. Chandler says, “Off the field people’s voices are great because they inspire the team.” Chandler then talks about how the team plays as one unit. The way the team trusts each other is seen in the way they play, how they speak to each other and how they support each other.
The teams’ goal in the short term is to win the A-10 Championship, but in the long term, they want to go to the NCAA. Chandler and the team never wanted to be settled in what they do, with Chandler saying they “ are always hungry for more.” The team’s mantra is “RATS.” This phrase is short for, “run out the storm.” RATS means that when there are difficult times, instead of running away from that storm, go to it. Going to the storm/thunder is interpreted as going through adversity with your team behind you. To celebrate those big wins, the team plays “Run This Town” by Rihanna.
Looking into the next years, Chandler wants to stay at Saint Louis University for a fifth year and continue his education. As he does this, he wants to work on his soccer career in hopes to go to the professional league. Chandler’s favorite book right now is “The Mountain is You” by Brianna Wiest, which explores self-sabotage. Chandler expressed that this book has helped him dive into his own decisions and how he can improve his mental strength as a human. Connecting back to this Saint Louis team, Chandler is inspired and happy to be playing next to his teammates, the people he calls his second family. His favorite memory from the season thus far is scoring the game-winning goal against Saint Joes in overtime. He has a ritual, before every game, of going to his corner of the field, closing his eyes and visualizing his presence on the field. Chandler expresses how visualization is something that he loves to do off the pitch as well. He describes it as productive meditation, which can focus him on what his tasks are and how he will work hard to get that done well.
Lastly, Chandler answered the question, “What advice would you give to younger athletes looking to pursue a Division I career?” He paused for some time to consider, and then answered that his advice would be to be prepared for adversity and mental challenges. Chandler continued to explain that his first years of college soccer were tough, as he was not told how hard it would be to be a student-athlete. He quickly expresses that he would not be the person he is today without those challenges. He learned to always keep pushing himself in life because you always want to be ready for what is to come.
To close the discussion, he said, “Every person develops in different time, so just be ready for your shoulder to be tapped on and make it count.”