St. Thomas Looks to the Future after Up and Down Campaign

The Tommies may have finished sixth in the Summit League this season, but they can take pride in knowing that they are building towards the future.

Freshmen Oliver Bieleveldt and Jorge Pacheco were voted to the Summit League’s All-Newcomer team for their contributions this fall. Bieleveldt was a defensive mainstay for the Tommies, starting in sixteen of their seventeen games on the season, while also converting two of the Tommies three penalties. Pacheco also played in sixteen of the Tommies games this season, notching fifteen starts and scoring one goal, in the Tommies’ 2-0 victory over Lindenwood in their final home game of the season.

Freshman Oliver Bieleveldt in an early season match-up against Green Bay. Photo courtesy of St. Thomas Athletics

2022 in Review

The Tommies got off to a rough start to their 2022 season, losing six of their first eight non-conference games, with a win against Incarnate Word at a neutral site and a tie against Green Bay at home their lone successes in the early stages of the season.

They got off to a flying start once conference play began however, beating down Eastern Illinois (a newcomer to the Summit League), playing a tough (non-conference) Gonzaga team to a 2-3 loss, and drawing against then #10 ranked Denver to earn four points from their first two Summit League games.

However, that Denver game was also the start of a nasty goal drought for St. Thomas, one where they found themselves goalless for four straight games, and six of their last seven to end the season. The only bright spot? The earlier mentioned 2-0 win at home over Lindenwood.

A home record of 2-3-2 is a great start for a team still building themselves up to compete in Division One soccer, but they really must look to start competing at away games if they want to take that next step. Luckily for the Tommies, that next step shouldn’t be too far away.

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Learning to Walk

Over the course of my many interviews with Coach Lowery, the finishing of his team was one of our favorite topics of conversation. And, if I had to sum up a basic conclusion from a whole season’s worth of interviews, the problem with the team’s finishing really comes down to a simple thing, naivety.

Whether it’s rushing chances, a lack of chances, or just some plain good-old fashioned lack of game experience, the Tommies were a team that looked young, which they are up top. Charlie Holton, a sophmore, and Pacheco, a freshman, had among the most minutes in the attack for the Tommies, Holton first and Pacheco third, sandwiching senior Jacek Nickowski. Freshman Carver Tierney took it a step further, tying with Nickowski for the team lead in goals with three on the season. Faris Colic, another freshman, managed two goals despite only playing 293 total minutes this season for St. Thomas.

Freshman Jorge Pacheco takes on a Gonzaga defender. Photo courtesy of St. Thomas Athletics

With Nickowski looking to return for one final season with the Tommies, look for these five to take a big step forward next year. A season’s worth of reps followed by a full offseason to get to know one another will work wonders for the Tommies’ attack, and if Pacheco or Tierney can become more aware of their roles and their teammates, look for them to become trendsetters for St. Thomas’ attack next season.

Old Line, New Help?

Six seniors were celebrated on senior day this year for the Tommies, but only Connor Aksoz currently plans to retire from his playing career, leaving the other five to carry on without him.

However, this doesn’t mean that the their spots are secure. Following the Lindenwood game I was talking with Coach Lowery, and he and his coaching staff already had some pretty concrete plans for recruiting once the season was finished. He and his assistants have since made finished the season, and begun their recruiting, looking to lure some European talent state-side. As of my last discussion with Lowery, Belgium was one of the main scouting locations for the coaching staff.

And why not? St. Thomas’ two newcomers of the year, Bieleveldt and Pacheco, from the Netherlands and Mexico respectively, were both starters from the Tommies all season long. If the coaching staff can knock another couple of recruits out of the park, they can raise the team’s entire ceiling. It was made very clear that no one’s spot is safe, and an introduction of competition within the team for spots would be just what St. Thomas wants.

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To the Offseason!

There’s a lot to look forward to for the Tommies after a successful second season in Division One soccer, not the least of which is the plethora of attacking talent that will have almost a whole year to grow more comfortable around each other, and a majority of the players will join their various club teams over the Summer and hopefully learn a thing or two there as well.

With St. Thomas players all over USL2, playing with Minneapolis City, St. Croix Legends, and others, they will see ample opportunities to grow in their personal games, which will hopefully translate to the following collegiate season. If you find yourself wanting to hear all about their USL2 exploits, check out our Lower Leagues tab here on Sotasoccer.com where you can read our articles from the 2022 season, and follow along as we grow our coverage for the summer of 2023!

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