Junior goalkeeper Derek Biss was a force for the GW men’s soccer team all season, which is precisely why the second half of last week’s NCAA Tournament loss to Virginia Commonwealth was so scary for the Colonials.
With 12 minutes left and the Colonials trailing 1-0, Biss collided with a VCU player and was knocked unconscious. The Rams scored, and Biss had to be carted off the field.
GW lost the game – and its NCAA run – but Biss has since recovered from the collision. And despite the loss, his teammates know they probably would not have come close to the postseason without him.
“I feel safe having him back there,” senior captain Trent Wilee said. “If any shot gets past us, we’re confident he’s going to get to it. He relies on us to make sure he doesn’t get shot at, and we rely on him to back us up.”
While at GW, Biss has helped the Colonials earn two Atlantic 10 Tournament titles and two NCAA Tournament berths. This season, the Colonials advanced to the second round of the NCAAs for first time since 1989. Their first-round win over the University of North Carolina Nov. 19 was the second tournament victory in program history.
Several organizations awarded Biss with accolades throughout the season, but he saved his best performances for the biggest games of the year. In three Atlantic 10 Tournament wins, he worked two shutouts (1-0 over Rhode Island in the quarterfinals and 2-0 over Temple in the final). In perhaps his best performance of the year, he made two key saves in an overtime shootout to push the Colonials past Duquesne 4-3 in the semifinals.
“The good thing about him is that when he’s tested, he comes up when we need him,” junior Andre Chapman said. “He’s the best at making clutch saves.”
Biss grew up playing soccer, stepping into the goal for the first time at age 10. Not a stranger to success, he led his high school team in Pittsfield, Mass. to the state tournament three times, and then to the finals once.
After graduation, he decided to delay college one year and attended Northfield Mt. Hermon Preparatory school in 2001 with Chapman. Once Chapman signed with GW, he suggested his teammate to the GW coaches, and he was recruited soon after.
During Biss’s freshman year, he appeared in ten games during the Colonials’ dominant run on the way to their 2002 Atlantic 10 title. He said he felt nervous at the beginning, but that the team’s accomplishments that season helped to prepare him for the future.
“You’re not ready to deal with everything right away, it all hits you by storm,” he said. “I experienced success right away, which was a good thing. It prepared us for now. Our freshman class has grown up with success.”
In 2003, after many key players had graduated, Biss’s sophomore class took over more of the starting spots. Biss earned the starting job over senior goalkeeper Eric Lund after he proved himself in games early in the year. The Colonials advanced to the conference tournament but did not make it past the first round.
This season did not begin as Biss expected, as the Colonials started the year 1-8-3. However, the team’s confidence in their goalie never wavered.
“He works really hard, and he worked hard all year. Everything he’s worked for has paid off,” said Wilee.
The hard work certainly did pay off, as a furious turnaround sent the Colonials on a 10-game unbeaten streak that did not end until the loss to Virginia Commonwealth.
For anchoring the team, Biss was selected as the A-10 Tournament Most Valuable Player and was named to the College Soccer News team of the week on Nov. 15.
This article appeared in the December 2, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.