It’s been a glorious four-year ride that Darian McCauley wouldn’t trade for anything.
And thanks to his award-winning effort over the weekend, it’s not over yet.
The West York High School graduate has been the Millersville University starting goalkeeper since his freshman season in 2016. That’s no small feat, considering coach Steve Widdowson’s Marauders have consistently been one of the best men's soccer programs in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
On Sunday, McCauley’s Millersville career reached a new pinnacle when he was named the PSAC Men's Soccer Tournament Most Valuable Player. The business marketing major helped the Marauders (13-5-2) win their second straight PSAC championship and clinch an automatic berth into the 40-team NCAA Division II Championships.
In the title match on Sunday, the 6-foot, 3-inch, 197-pounder made two saves to record the shutout in a 1-0 win against Gannon (19-2-0), which came in ranked No. 5 in the nation in D-II.
That followed an eight-save effort on Friday in a 2-1 triumph over Mercyhurst.
“(It’s) the biggest honor I have received in my career,” said McCauley, who earned a whopping 10 letters at West York in soccer, basketball and football. “It caught me a little by surprise because we had so many others that I felt deserved it as well. … My back line played fantastic.”
McCauley, who earlier earned All-PSAC East first-team honors, said the fact that Millersville got a quarterfinal bye and then got to host the semifinals and finals at Pucillo Field were big factors in the Marauders’ success over the weekend.
“The overall performance was a huge confidence booster for myself and the whole team,” McCauley said.
Stay at Millersville has been 'life-changing': For McCauley, the run to a second straight PSAC title just adds another chapter to his Millersville story — an experience he describes as “life-changing.”
“Millersville has been absolutely amazing to me,” McCauley said. “I love the school and the entire athletics program. All of the teams support one another. As for the soccer program, it has been life-changing for me. It has taught me discipline on and off the field, and it has been the best four years of my life. The brotherhood in the program is so close-knit.”
For his career, McCauley has compiled a 42-18-11 overall record, notching a winning record in each of his four seasons, including a 12-3-2 mark this season with a goals-against average of 1.01.
A 'fantastic player': Despite that record, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for McCauley. Widdowson said on the Millersville website that his goalie has had some “tough moments” en route to becoming a “fantastic player.”
McCauley, however, persevered through the hard times and continually improved, according to Widdowson, and is now a team captain, one of the team’s most consistent performers and one of the Marauders’ undisputed leaders.
“Darian is exactly what we look for in a Millersville player,” said Widdowson, who formerly was an assistant coach at York College. “We have three core values at Millersville: passion, discipline and ambition, and that is exactly who Darian is. He brings a passion and work rate to everything that he does and sets a fantastic example as a team captain. He communicates well with his team and holds them accountable when needed but also praises them when deserved.”
Aiming for NCAA win: Now McCauley and the Marauders will try to accomplish something that has eluded them over the previous three years — winning an NCAA contest.
Millersville will start its NCAA journey at 6 p.m. Thursday vs. Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference champion Post (14-3-3) at Garden City, New York. The winner will play the host school, Northeast-10 regular-season champion Adelphi (15-2-1), on Saturday. Adelphi is the No. 1 seed in Super Region 1. Millersville is the No. 8 seed, while Post is the No. 9 seed.
“I feel that our team can compete with anyone out there,” McCauley said. “Coach Widdowson set up an extremely tough schedule for us this year, and I believe that has prepared us moving forward into the NCAA tournament. We are all very relaxed and would be ready for any challenge that we may face, and I think that makes us even more dangerous.”
A future in soccer: No matter what happens in the NCAA playoffs, McCauley believes soccer will continue to be a “massive part” of his life in the future.
He plans on attending a few pro trials in the hopes of landing a roster spot. He also said he would “love to continue coaching and training for as long as I possibly can. It (soccer) has been the biggest part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I do not think I could ever walk away from the sport.”
Family support: One major factor in nurturing McCauley’s passion for soccer has been his family.
“My parents (Jim and Pam McCauley) and my grandfather (Charles Peters), are my biggest supporters, especially when it comes to soccer,” McCauley said. “They have always been there for me in the tough times and have kept me going. I cannot thank them enough for all they have done and continue to do for me and my soccer career.”
It’s a career that reached a new pinnacle over the weekend, and the ride isn’t over yet.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.