Men’s Soccer wins USA South Conference title; NCAA tournament bound

Scots soccer wins USA South Conference title. Photo by Cindy Nowlin.
Scots soccer wins USA South Conference title. Photo by Cindy Nowlin.

The Maryville College Men’s Soccer team captured its first USA South Conference Regular Season Title with a 9-1 conference record. Winning the USA South Regular Season Title meant that the Scots would be the No. 1 seed for the USA South Conference Tournament and host the quarter-final match against the No. 8 seeded Ferrum Panthers. Also, the Scots earned the No. 23 National Ranking according to www.D3soccer.com.

On Oct. 29, the Ferrum Panthers (5-13) came to Maryville College with the intent to upset the top seeded and nationally ranked Scots, but the Panthers’ hopes would diminish quickly. In the fifth minute of play, Freshman Johnny Rakhmonberdiev stole the ball from a Ferrum defender and slotted Senior All-American Caleb Lucas in on goal who finished bottom left for the Scots’ opening tally. Lucas’ 20th goal of the year.

Shortly after, in the 16th minute, Ferrum was called for a hand-ball in their own penalty box. Senior Defender Thomas Palmer stepped up to the spot and calmly buried the ball into the back of the net. The Scots led 2-0.

Maryville’s third goal would come in the 25thminute when Rakhmonberdiev dished to Brett Thomas, who beat two defenders off the dibble and finished with a classic toe-poke. His sixth goal of the year put the Scots on top 3-0.

Maryville would control the play for the rest of the half and add another goal in the 41st minute when Freshman Jameson Elmore played a service into the box off of a free-kick and John Nesbit finished the loose ball in the box.

At the break, the Scots led the Panthers 4-0. The Scots controlled the second 45 minutes of play, adding 3 more tallies from Rakhmonberdiev, Andrew Sullivan, and Lucas. The Panthers added 2 goals in the second half but the Scots advanced to the USA South Semi-Finals with a 7-2 win.

The win improved the Scots record to 16-2 and tied the record for wins in a single season, which was set in 1988. Also, the win over Ferrum guaranteed the Scots to host the USA South Conference Semi-Finals and Championship matches.

On Nov. 4, the No. 1 seeded Scots hosted the No. 5 seeded Methodist Monarchs (8-7-1). The match winner advanced to the USA South Conference Tournament Championship. Nobody in attendance could have guessed that they were about to see one of the greatest soccer matches in Maryville College history.

The first half of play was fairly even as both teams possessed and created chances, but nobody could break the deadlock. Both teams were still tied 0-0 at the half. In the second half, Maryville seemed to have an edge over the visiting Monarchs.

The Scots controlled possession and created attacks through the midfield. As momentum built on the side of the Scots and a goal seemed to be looming, disaster struck in the eighty-first minute.

Off a Maryville attack, Methodist cleared the ball up the field to their Forward who settled the ball and attacked the Maryville back-line. The Methodist Striker dribbled past the Maryville Defenders and into the Maryville penalty-box forcing a 1 v. 1 with the Scots Goalkeeper Ryan Jorgensen.

Jorgensen came off of his goal-line toward the Methodist Striker to cut off the angle of a shot, but the Methodist Forward slotted the ball under him into the bottom right of the net. Methodist took a 1-0 lead with 9 minutes in regulation.

Down 1-0, Maryville needed a goal to keep their season alive. Two minutes and 9 seconds later, Senior and First Team All-USA South Midfielder Tim Baker would flick a ball over his head and over the Methodist Defenders into the Methodist penalty-box.

Before the Monarchs Goalkeeper could come off of his goal-line to catch the ball, Rakhmonberdiev ran onto Baker’s flick and headed the ball back-post into the net. The goal tied the score 1-1, and 90 minutes of play would end with the score deadlocked.

In overtime for NCAA Division 3 Soccer, there are two “sudden death” or “golden goal” periods, and if the teams are still tied the game is decided on penalty kicks. The Scots and Monarchs held each other goal-less in the first overtime.

In the one-hundred and third minute, the students in attendance rushed the field when Rakhmonberdiev gathered the ball, on the right side of the field outside of the Methodist 18-yard penalty-box, pushed the ball to his left foot and blasted a 30-yard game winner into the top left corner of the Methodist net.

The Scots won 2-1 in a double overtime thriller. The win meant the Scots would play for the USA South Conference Tournament Championship and a NCAA Tournament automatic bid.

 

The next night, the Maryville College Soccer Scots hosted the No. 2 seeded North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops (14-5) for the USA South Conference Title. The Battling Bishops would get off to a good start, knocking the ball around and controlling most of the play. N.C. Wesleyan would take a 1-0 lead on a controversial play in the twenty-third minute.

An N.C. Wesleyan player would fall to the ground hurt and Maryville had the ball at the time. In attempt of good sportsmanship, the Scots stopped play and tried to kick the ball out-of-bounds. When Maryville went to kick the ball out of play, a N.C. Wesleyan player intercepted the ball and scored.

The referee allowed the goal, and the Scots trailed early. As many players, coaches, and fans say, “The ball never lies.” The saying came true 2 minutes later when a moment of brilliance from Freshman Chris Fernandez evened the score at 1-1. Fernandez gained control of the ball around midfield, picked his head up to see that the Battling Bishop Goalkeeper was off of his goal-line.

The Freshman sniped a 45-yard drive into the top right corner of the goal. The teams would end the half tied 1-1. In the fifty-fifth minute of play, USA South Player of the Year Caleb Lucas received the ball in his attacking third and dribbled the ball towards the N.C. Wesleyan Defense. Once the defenders began to collapse on him, he slotted the ball to Tim Baker who deked the goalkeeper and finished into the left side of the net.

The goal would be Baker’s thirteenth goal of the season, the game winner, and he also was named the tournament MVP. The Scots would hold on to down the Battling Bishops 2-1.

The win crowned the Scots (18-2) as the USA South Conference Tournament Champions for the first time since joining the conference in 2012. Also, the USA South Conference Championship win locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the Men’s Soccer program, it will be their fourth trip to the tournament —the first since 2005.

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