The Emmaus men's soccer team wrapped up their final regular season match on Saturday when they travelled to Chicago, Illinois to take on the Archers of Moody Bible Institute. Emmaus came into the match looking for their third win in a row and their first ever against Moody. The last time Emmaus had played a match at Moody was in 2011 when their then depleted side was blown out by the eventual National Champions 9-0. The 2017 Emmaus team had fared much better against Moody, falling in overtime 0-1 off of an own goal at the regional tournament. The 2018 squad, led by six seniors, was hungry to make history. The match kicked off at 2:00 pm at a brisk 42 degrees and with wind gusts reaching 20 miles per hour.
The opening minutes of the match saw Moody put together a few attacks and win two early corner kicks as the Emmaus defense took a few minutes to settle in and possess. Once Emmaus did settled in, they began to look like a very dangerous side. Several attacks down the right flank by Jared Gambill (#16) led to several corners won. In the 18th minute Gambill was fouled hard, but the referee signaled advantage as Gambill managed to keep his feet and win the end line, despite having had his ankle twisted in the tackle. Gambill then delivered a perfect drop pass to forward Mason McCarl (#7) whose one time effort deflected off the cross bar and straight down, with the officials signaling no goal. Unfortunately for Gambill, his ankle swelled almost immediately, forcing him to leave the match.
The two teams then settled back down and took turns building up attacks and battling it out in the stacked midfield. In the 31st minute it was Moody's turn to strike the frame as their effort off of a corner kick was directed high, off the cross bar, and down into the arms of keeper Gabriel Salinas.
Just as it looked like both teams would head into the half scoreless, Emmaus grabbed the momentum once again. In the 42nd minute, fullback Tim Barton (#8) switched the ball to left back Sammy Gitonga (#6), who settled the ball perfectly despite the windy conditions, and played a perfect through ball to Wakilongo Ebake (#17) just behind the Moody defense where his strong finish found the back of the net to give the visitors their first ever lead against Moody.
The second half start could not have been scripted better for Emmaus. With the wind now at their backs, the Eagles pressed the ball up the left flank in the 47th minute. Midfielder Carson McBain (#11) won the end line and drove in a perfect cross to McCarl, whose one touch pass to the back post found Ebake for the tap in to give Emmaus a two goal advantage.
With Moody now forced to press the attack, Emmaus kept numbers behind the ball and continued to play dangerous balls up the flanks. In the 74th minute, Emmaus struck for their third and final time. McCarl won a ball at the right post and crossed to Ebake, whose shot was saved but deflected wide, where McCarl smartly followed the play and put the ball home. With a comfortable three goal lead Emmaus focused on defense, holding Moody at bay until the final whistle.
The shutout was the fourth of the year for the Eagles as they ended their regular season with a record of 9 wins, 3 losses, and 1 tie.
"My favorite part of the match was watching the midfield fight it out," said Coach Block. "Both teams are loaded with talent in the middle and made it hard for either team to build an advantage."
"This was a big win for us," said Coach Brown. "I was at the match in 2011 when Moody easily defeated us. The current Moody side may not have a great record, but they are a very talented group who play an incredibly tough schedule in the Chicago area. Today's win demonstrates how far the Emmaus program has come in the past several years, adding talent without sacrificing a love for the Lord. This was a team win once again today, and it makes me excited about the postseason. Our Regional tournament is going to be a doozy as I firmly believe that the spread between the top several teams (including Moody) is much more narrow than records might indicate. Anyone can beat anyone. Wins like this should give us confidence that we can beat anyone if we stay humble and play together. I am pumped!"
The Eagles will travel to Haviland, Kansas on Thursday to participate in the MCCC Conference Tournament. They have earned the #1 seed going in to the tournament and a first round bye. They will play the winner of Ozark Christian College and Calvary University. Match times will be determined in the upcoming week.