Ricky Griffin helps lead men’s soccer to NCAA successes
When former Tartans’ soccer coach Nick Gaudioso was first trying to bring in speedy winger Ricky Griffin to Carnegie Mellon University, few would have predicted that the Westchester, N.Y. native would be one of the best players in Carnegie Mellon men’s soccer history. As a senior in high school, Griffin was not highly recruited to play soccer in college. Despite this, Griffin caught the eye of Carnegie Mellon’s and arch-rival University of Rochester’s soccer programs.
In the beginning, Griffin was keen on attending Rochester, but drawbacks such as a lack of promised playing time led Griffin to look at his other option, Carnegie Mellon. Griffin was then drawn in by the quality of the Tepper School of Business and by the welcoming coaching staff that saw Griffin as a key component in their plans for the future. At Carnegie Mellon, playing time was certainly not an issue as Griffin started in all 75 games of his college career.
Griffin and the current senior class have been a part of the resurrection of soccer at Carnegie Mellon. In 2008, Arron Lujan took over as the head coach of the men’s soccer team in what many saw as a surprising move. “Everyone enjoyed playing for Coach Gaudioso. The man has coached at Carnegie Mellon for 26 years and no one really expected the coaching change to happen,” Griffin said.
However, Griffin admits that “had it not been for the new system [3–5–2 formation that Lujan brought], I would have never been able to reach my best ability.”
Under Gaudioso, Griffin played as an outside midfielder and was constrained by defensive responsibilities; however, Lujan made the key change by playing Griffin as one of the two strikers. A dramatic difference could even be seen in Griffin’s statistics, as Griffin scored just 15 goals under Gaudioso and 36 under Lujan.
The hard work of the current seniors and Lujan’s tactics paid off as they reached the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in three years. Although they were pleased with this accomplishment, the seniors wanted more.
“Going into the fall season this past year, I was very thankful for what I have already achieved at Carnegie Mellon. Not to mention, I have been able to be a part of a powerful offense that included fellow seniors Jon Simon, Pat Lutz, Keith Haselhoff, and Ryan Browne. The best thing had to have been that we as classmates were great friends and had a real bond on and off the field,” Griffin said.
As a team, the Tartans had three major goals this past year: win the University Athletic Association league title, host a playoff game, and ultimately, be better than last year.
Although the Tartans ended the year as league co-champions, their efforts resulted in the achievement of all three of their goals.
Not only were they better than last year, they were better than any other Carnegie Mellon men’s soccer team, as they were able to reach the third round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
As for Griffin, he capped off a tremendous career with numerous school records, as well as being a two-time second team All-American, two-time UAA Player of the Year, two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, and the all-time season point leader in Carnegie Mellon history. His accolades have been noticed by United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) soccer coaches, who have invited him to try out in their pre-season combines.
Despite the attractiveness of this offer, Griffin still plans on taking up the trading position that he has accepted this past fall, after he graduates. Regardless of whatever path he chooses, he will always be remembered as one of Carnegie Mellon’s best athletes.