Lions enter soccer regional as 6th seed
SAGU plays SWCU Thursday at 2:30pm
Tourney field has 6 teams vying for a nationals berth
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Southwestern Assemblies of God University will serve as host for the Central Regional men’s soccer tournament this weekend, with all matches being played on campus.
The National Christian College Athletic Association, which has over 100 member institutions, is divided into Divisions I and II. The single-elimination regional has six teams competing for a spot in the NCCAA’s Division I Nationals, which will be held November 30 through December 3 in Orlando.
The SAGU Lions (7-7-4), based on their Longo rating, enter the tourney as the #6 seed. They will face #3 Southwestern Christian University (5-9-4) at 2:30 on Thursday, Nov. 17, on Pride Park’s Field #1. It will be their second meeting this year after a double-overtime, 2-2 draw in Bethany, Oklahoma on August 30.
Should the Lions get past the Eagles in the rematch, they will tangle with Mid-America Christian University on Friday at 9:30am. Despite a 2-11-3 mark, the Evangels’ Longo rating, which takes into account the difficulty of each team’s schedule, has them rated as the #2 seed. They thumped the Lions 3-1 on August 24.
A year ago the teams also met in the Central Regional. The Evangels rolled to a big, 6-0 win, avenging an August 3-1 loss to the Lions.
Provided the Purple Pride can knock off SWCU and MACU, they would earn a date in Saturday’s final at 2:30pm. They would go against the #1 seed, Central Baptist College (Ark), Central Christian College (Ks) or Colorado Christian University. The CCU Cougars are now in the NCAA’s Division II, where the competition level is much tougher.
The top ranked team in the Central Region will not be in town this week. Oklahoma Wesleyan University (14-4-2) won the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference and are an automatic qualifier in the NAIA national tournament. They will have their hands full this Saturday when they travel to Baldwin City, Kansas to battle Baker University. The #3 national seeded Wildcats are 17-1-1.
Here is the skinny on the regional teams, based on the NCCAA statistical reports:
#1 Central Baptist College (Conway, Ark) (9-8-1)
The Mustangs have scored 57 goals, led by three players; Senior forward Matt Cole (10 goals and 1 assist), junior midfielder Sabelo Hilongwane (10, 13) and T.J. Rodriguez (7, 6), a senior middie. The Ponies topped SAGU 4-2 and Central Christian by a 3-1 count before falling at Southwestern Christian, 2-1. They suffered a 4-3 setback in the MCAC tourney final to Oklahoma Wesleyan.
#2 Mid-America Christian University (OKC, Ok) (2-11-3)
The Evangels, with but 14 goals scored for the cardinal-clad Evangels, have held their own on defense, holding 10 teams to two-goals or less. Midfielders Jeremiah Huff (3 goals), a senior, and junior Willy Deleon (2g, 3a) lead the attack. Junior goalie Zane Bourne is solid between the pipes (1.9 goals per game allowed) and junior defender Andrew Webster, from England, is a three-time All-Sooner Athletic Conference selection.
#3 Central Christian College (McPherson, Ks) (11-6-1)
The Tigers have the most prolific-scoring offense in the field, racking up 59 goals. Big Cat point-producers include junior forward Gunnar Kelly (14g, 5a), sophomore forward Ronald Rocha (13, 3), Rod Gaffoglio (3, 10), a junior halfback, as well as junior forward Martin Marfo (2, 6). Scoring in bunches, the Tigers have earned their stripes.
#4 Colorado Christian University (Lakewood, Co) (0-17-1)
After a season in the grinding Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (NCAA Division II), the Cougars have persevered and are hungry to raise their game. Based in a Denver suburb, CCU battled valiantly behind freshman defenseman Graham Delano (5g) and sophomore keeper David Ilgenfritz (3.57 ga). Luke Burgard (3g, 1 a) is a freshman defender. Like MACU, their schedule was a minefield, where 12 scores in 18 matches meant more considering their foes.
#5 Southwestern Christian University (Bethany, Ok) (5-9-4)
These Eagles are battle-worthy. The squad recently placed four players, including three Brits on the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference All-Conference unit; sophomores Niall Harrison, a defender, and middie Adam Kay (4g, 3a), as well as freshman defenseman Lewis Edwards. Jose Castillo, a sophomore forward, also made the MCAC team. The Blue Birds’ record includes five one-goal defeats. After Central Christian (59), Central Baptist (57) and SAGU (34), SWCU is fourth in the field in goals (25).
Last fall the Eagles won the Central Regional and were the #3 seed (of eight teams) at Nationals. There they went 1-2 and finished seventh. Eventual champion, Palm Beach Atlantic University, clipped the Eagles in the opener, 3-0. The PBA Sailfish blanked Cedarville (Ohio) in the final, 2-0.
#6 Southwestern Assemblies of God University (Waxahachie, Tx) (7-7-4)
Tourney hosts, the Lions steadily improved all season. Five heartbreaking, late setbacks cost them dearly. They scored 34 goals and yielded the same. Danny Martinez, a junior forward, set a school record with 11 goals. He has three helpers. Two members of their frosh class, midfielder Parker Sturgeon (1g, 8a) and Jonathan Ramos (3g, 4a), a forward, and senior veterans Alex Vazquez (4g, 3a) and defender Sam Cabrera lead the Lions. Their netminder is sophomore Cesar Galvin.
The most telling numbers about this year's Jungle Cats are on defense. While posting a 6-12-0 record in 2010, the Lions scored 23 goals and surrendered 49. Under first year head coach Gerald Nichols they have tallied 34 times and yielded the same. The play of the midfielders and the infusion of a talented freshman class are main reasons for the advancements.
Pair of RRAC teams garner bids to NAIA playoffs
The Red River Athletic Conference champion, 20th ranked Huston-Tillotson University (17-2-1) and the University of Texas at Brownsville (13-5-2), whom they whipped in the RRAC tournament final, 1-0, both are in the NAIA tourney.
The HTU Rams clash with #14 Kansas Wesleyan on Saturday. The Coyotes (17-3), from Salina, Ks, are the home team. The winner advances to play the Baker-OKWU survivor on Monday.
The UTB Scorpions are at #12 Belhaven University (15-4-0) on Saturday in Jackson, Mississippi.
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