By John Niswander
Elm Staff Writer
Dimitri “Dima” Kaliakin may have played his last collegiate soccer game for the Shoremen a few weeks ago, but what the program will never forget is his accomplishments.
The Shoremen finished the season with their best record since the year 2000, and qualified for the Centennial Conference Tournament for the first time in school history. Their success this past season can largely be attributed to the hard-working senior class that strived to change the culture of the program, both on and off the field, for Coach Roy Dunshee.
One of the players leading the change was Kaliakin. He was first recruited to WC at a club tournament the summer between his junior and senior year of high school.
“I felt immediately at home on campus and I liked the direction that Coach Dunshee wanted to take the program to and I decided to commit to WC without even coming for an overnight visit,” he said.
As a freshman, Kaliakin realized that in order to improve on the field, he would need to work just as hard, if not, harder off of it.
“As a freshman it was more about adapting into life as a college soccer player and once I saw what it took to play at the level and what I needed to improve in, I decided I would work as hard as possible to make myself and the team better. I knew I needed to change some old habits like my nutrition and fitness training to make myself a better athlete and other guys on the team did the same thing. I was a catalyst for some of the changes, but credit has to go just as much to the other seniors on the team who worked just as hard to make themselves better and eventually achieve success,” he said.
Success is never achieved without hard work and perseverance. Kaliakin used his attitude as motivation to overcome personal struggles to be the best collegiate soccer player he could be.
“One of the struggles I had over my soccer career has been a lack of confidence in my abilities, and certain games I allowed this lack of confidence to affect my play. Some games, if I started the game off poorly I would get upset at myself and let it affect my play for the rest of the game, which was frustrating. Another big struggle was overcoming certain shortcomings as an athlete. These shortcomings were a catalyst to work harder to always become a better overall soccer player.”
Kaliakin emerged as a leader who helped lead his team by example and hard work. Other guys on the team saw how much time he invested into becoming a better player and would strive to work just as hard. Kaliakin credits the other senior leaders on the team, and more importantly, his coaches with recruiting the right people who wanted to transform the program’s culture.
“The credit here has to go to the great recruiting done by Coach Dunshee and Coach Chris Koch. They have brought in great players but more importantly great people into the program and I can honestly say it was not hard to get everyone on the same page this year. Everyone on the team was committed towards getting better and making the team more relevant in the conference. They did the little things very well like getting to practice early, making sure they played hard every time they stepped on the field, and not breaking any team rules. The culture of hard work has been passed on and they bought into the culture immediately, which was crucial to the success of the team this past season,” he said.
Kaliakin was always more focused on the success of his team rather than individual statistics. After his junior season, he needed just eight assists to break the school record for career assists.
“Obviously this was something that was exciting for me, but I knew that the goal coming into the season was to make the playoffs for the first time.”
Kaliakin broke the school assist record in a road game at Catholic University where he tallied the record-tying and record-breaking assists in a 3-1 victory. This record had stood strong since 1975. Kaliakin shattered the record by five assists by the time of his final game.
“The feeling is great, knowing that all the hard work of the past four years led to us making history and we feel like we have demanded respect from the other teams in the conference after this past season. Playing in my last college game was a great experience and of course was very sad at the same time. It was awesome being in a game that mattered and meant so much and the game was such a battle, it was just great to be a part of.
I am obviously sad that my career is over, but I have so many great memories to look back on and I have made so many great friends that I will have for the rest of my life. My teammates during all four years here at WC were fantastic and I will miss all of them. I will also miss the very competitive practices where we would go at it and fight hard to become better players, but then immediately after practice ended we would be back to being friends, joking around with each other and having a great time,” he said.
Some of Kaliakin’s best memories from his entire WC career were ones he experienced this past season.
“I think the most memorable game has to be the game versus Dickinson in the first round of the playoffs, especially when Cole Strong scored a screamer to win the game for us. My personal most memorable moment is probably scoring vs Swarthmore this past season in the game to clinch us a playoff spot. It felt incredible to be able to score in such an important game”
Kaliakin now will look to assist on the soccer field, but in a different way.
“My future will definitely be revolved around soccer. I have already begun coaching soccer camps during my summers in college and I have grown to really enjoy it so I my big aspiration is to one day become a head coach of a college soccer team,” he said.