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Sun, Soccer, and Success in the South

Posted by jfullan on November 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM

The Emmaus men’s soccer team travelled south to a warm and sunny Joplin, Missouri to compete in the ACCA National Tournament in a full weekend of soccer, fun, and fellowship accompanied by the Emmaus volleyball team.

The Eagles (#5 seed) took on the Warriors of Calvary Bible College (#4 seed) on Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the tournament. The team was excited about the rematch with Calvary who had defeated Emmaus 2-1 earlier in the season. The Eagles got off to a great start, possessing the ball and creating scoring opportunities, but the Warriors managed to find the net first when outstanding senior Ross Harris (#14) evaded the Emmaus defense and fired a shot that bounced off of goalkeeper Erik Rasmussen’s hands and trickled into the net. The half ended with the Eagles trailing 0-1, but there was plenty of exciting soccer to be played.

Cheered on loudly by the volleyball team, Emmaus controlled the momentum of the second half and freshman Joe Olsen tied the game up with his 8th goal of the year on a strong shot just wide of the keeper. Emmaus took the lead a few minutes later when the ball rebounded out of the Calvary penalty area off of an Emmaus corner kick. Freshman defender Ryan Bell stepped to the ball and fired a rocket into the upper ninety for his first goal of the season. The Emmaus offense continued to press the attack, but Calvary had an answer when Ross Harris scored his second goal of the game to tie things up on a strong turn in the Emmaus box. Overtime seemed imminent as the two teams battled hard all over the muddy field, each creating near scoring opportunities. Then, in the final minute of play, Andy Bell won a powerful header in the box that deflected off a Calvary defender and into the goal to seal a 3-2 victory for the Eagles.

“I am really proud of the guys’ efforts today. Both teams battled hard and exemplified both strong play and Christ-like character. It is always a privilege to play the Warriors as they are well-coached and follow the example of their Coach, Dan Nichols.” (Coach Brown)

Thursday night after the game the Emmaus teams met up with the Calvary teams for a time of sharing, singing, prayer, and fellowship. “It was a rich time for both teams to worship and encourage one another, remembering our great Savior together and celebrating being a part of His team.”

On Friday afternoon the Emmaus men took on the #1 seeded hosts, Ozark Christian College. As the game got under way, it was evident that Ozark possessed a great deal of both speed and skill and kept the Emmaus defense busy early and often. Finally, in the 24th minute, Ozark found the back of the net as they managed to claim a hard fought 50/50 ball and cross it into the box where a waiting forward made a strong turn to score a goal. The Emmaus attack struggled to gain much momentum against the speed of the Ozark defense and went into the half trailing 0-1.

Emmaus came out fired up in the second half and after battling primarily in the midfield for 10 minutes they recorded the first shot on goal of the half. It was Ozark, however, that would strike again as outstanding midfielder Connor Wood (#6) played a perfect through ball to streaking outside midfielder Skyler Davis who put the shot away with one neat touch. “There wasn’t a lot the defense could have done as it was a great pass and excellent finish.”

Just minutes later Ozark struck again on a long range shot that beat keeper Erik Rasmussen into the left corner. The score would hold at 0-3 for most of the second half before Ozark managed to notch a two more goals courtesy of their speed and determination.

“No one ever likes to lose, but I have to say our guys fought hard and gave themselves a chance. Erik Rasmussen recorded some phenomenal saves to keep things close and the defense held strong for most of the game. Ozark is a very skilled team with a lot of speed and a skilled bench. Even better, they are a classy team who clearly enjoys both the game as well as the fellowship on the field. It was a privilege to play them and I look forward to seeing them in future years. Coach Greer clearly has his priorities straight in working with his team as they play extremely hard without sacrificing their testimony.”

The final test for Emmaus came on Saturday morning as they faced Hillsdale Freewill Baptist College (Moore, OK) in the 3rd place game of the tournament. The Eagles got off to a good start by putting strong pressure on the Hillsdale midfield and setting up a few good crosses early. Hillsdale quickly regained their composure, however, to set the tone for the game. Using crisp passes and strong finishing, Hillsdale managed to knot two goals in the opening half as Emmaus struggled to apply consistent pressure on their shooters. Coach Brown reported that, “We gave them a little too much space, which I realized later had more to do with tired legs than lack of effort on our part.”

The second half brought more of the same as the weekend-weary Eagles struggled to find energy to match Hillsdale’s, who scored just two minutes into the new half and twice more halfway through. “We were clearly tired as we had yet to face 3 games in 3 days this year, and credit Hillsdale for taking advantage of the space we afforded them on defense. They clearly played a better game and I applaud their fitness and finishing.” Emmaus did not give up, however, as they finally managed to score a goal of their own with just two minutes to spare. Travis Holtan (#5) battled for a ball in the left corner, won the endline, and then played a perfect cross to freshman Joe Olsen (#3) who headed the ball into the goal from close range. “The guys don’t give up. Though energy was low and our play was a little frustrating at times, the guys continued to work for one another until the final whistle.”

Despite falling in their final two games of the tournament, the Eagles finished 4th overall and count it a very successful weekend for the team and the program. “Before our first game of the tournament we shared as a team what would make this a successful weekend. Sure, winning games can be part of success, but we all agreed that playing our hardest, growing in our relationships with one another and other teams, and representing our school, families, and Savior well were the key ingredients for a successful weekend. Though there is always room for growth, I would have to say mission accomplished as far as the team goes. This season we grew together through wins and losses, and it is hard for me to imagine working with a more fun group of guys who genuinely care for one another on and off the field. They are not a group to be taken for granted as I only wish I could have them all around for a few more years. I have grown significantly as a coach this year from working with them, and I count it a great privilege to be a part of this team.”

Emmaus finished their season with a record of 6 wins, 14 losses, and plenty of potential looking toward next year.


Categories: Men's Soccer

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