Striker Felipe Rueda Duran ’26 is off to a sizzling start this season. Leading men’s soccer with four assists and tied for the team lead with six goals, he has been at the heart of an offensive outburst for the Polar Bears.
In the team’s season opener against the University of New England, Rueda Duran scored four goals in a 5–1 victory for the Polar Bears. He then followed his strong season debut with the game-winning assist against Bates just three days later.
“I had the ball on the wing, and Coach had told me that Bates was going to send more than one player at me—I had three guys on me. I was able to get through them, play the ball to Mateo [Pacelli ’26] and he got the goal,” Rueda Duran said. “It was just the best feeling.”
Men’s soccer now sits at 6–0–2 (2–0–2 NESCAC) and has not lost a regular season match in over a year. The team made it to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament last season, with Rueda Duran delivering a key goal and tallying two assists in the team’s Sweet 16 victory over SUNY Oneonta.
Rueda Duran is happy with what he and the team have accomplished so far, but he is not yet satisfied.
“We just have to keep it going. It’s early on and it only matters if we keep it going and the team keeps playing well,” Rueda Duran said.
While he is serious about winning, the most important thing to Rueda Duran on the field is having fun.
“When I go out there, I’m going out there playing with some of my best friends,” he said. “And if we do what we have to do—if we play for each other and play the way that coach wants us to play, then we’ll come out with the win and come out happy.”
Men’s soccer looks different this season after graduating a number of players who played significant minutes for last year’s squad. With the changes in personnel has come a change in style of play.
“I think that this year we have a lot more of a technical team. So we’re able to play in a different way, and I think that we’ve been playing to our strengths so far,” Rueda Duran said. “We’re not looking for that lucky goal on a counter-attack. We’re playing through opponents and really showing our class in that way. So we’ve really adjusted to our strengths this year, and I think that it has paid off so far.”
Rueda Duran himself has also had to make an adjustment this season after shifting from playing winger to striker. The beginning of his sophomore campaign is a reflection of the work he put in during the offseason to improve his pace of play, positioning and finishing.
Rueda Duran attributes his strong work ethic to his father, who immigrated from Colombia to the United States in order for his children to pursue a better education.
“I’ve always looked up to my dad as my number one inspiration in life … He’s worked so hard to give me everything I have today,” Rueda Duran said. “Everything I do is for my dad.”
Rueda Duran has been playing ever since he could walk, and he’s been watching games on TV for just as long, especially those featuring his favorite player, Lionel Messi—who he believes is the greatest of all time.
Much like Messi, who took home the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Rueda Duran’s goal is to win a championship this season.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I want to bring something home. I want to win the NESCAC championship. I want to win the national championship. I fully believe that we can,” he said. “It’s just a matter of keeping our heads down, staying humble, not getting ahead of ourselves, taking it one game at a time, taking it one goal at a time. We’ll see how far we go, but I have a lot of faith in the team. I have a lot of faith in my teammates.”
Regardless of the outcome, Rueda Duran is excited to compete with his teammates each time he steps foot on the pitch.
“Winning games is fun, but having a good team that cares about you is really the best part,” he said.