The Emmaus soccer men travelled 11 hours to Haviland, Kansas to participate in the Midwest Christian College Conference (MCCC) tournament this weekend hosted by Barclay College. The Eagles entered the tournament with the overall top seed and a first round bye before they were matched up with a tough #4 seed Ozark Christian. Emmaus won the earlier meeting between the two squads by a score of 4-1, but they came out expecting Ozark to make them work hard for every inch. The match kicked off just before 5:00 pm at a warm 70 degrees for late October.
The early minutes of the match saw the Eagles struggle to settle in and connect passes, while Ozark put their game plan into practice. They pulled some of their strongest players into the back line, matched up with the Eagles' most dangerous players, and looked to score on counter attacks. As Emmaus began to settle in they managed to create several dangerous opportunities down the left flank, with Fabian Parra (#3) winning the end line on several occasions. On one attempt he saw his shot hit the post and bounce back into play, but the ball stayed out of the goal. The teams entered the half deadlocked, with Emmaus holding a shot advantage, but with no fruit to show.
The second half saw Emmaus begin to mix up the attack, working down both end lines, and creating several good chances. Still, the Ozark defense held firm. One of the best chances Emmaus had came in the 78th minute when a far post corner kick found Jake Taylor who saw his effort sail just wide of the post. With just four minutes to play in regulation a shot by Mason McCarl (#7) following a scramble in the box was saved by the diving Ozark keeper. The teams ended regulation still tied at zeroes, with overtime to play.
Once again, overtime spectators saw Emmaus control possession and look to penetrate, with Ozark constantly looking for the counter attack. The two teams battled for the full 110 minutes before Emmaus was given the opportunity to participate in their first penalty shootout in school history.
Eagle captain Carson Mcbain (#11) stepped up and nailed his first penalty. The first Ozark shooter then lined up for his shot, but Eagle keeper Gabriel Salinas (#1) dove to his left, got a hand on the ball, and deflected it up and off the crossbar for the save. Mason McCarl (#7) then stepped up and fired his penalty shot home before Salinas came up huge again, saving Ozark's second penalty. Wakilongo Ebake (#17) then stepped up and scored his penalty to give the top seed a 3-0 lead, but Ozark wasn't going to go down without a fight. First team All-Conference midfielder Colton Leinbach (#10) stepped up and converted his penalty, and Ozark was given a life line when Jake Taylor's shot was saved by the Ozark keeper. Ozark then converted their second penalty for to make it 3-2 as Emmaus needed only one more penalty to seal the win. Salinas, with two big saves already under his belt, stepped up and fired his shot home to give the Eagles the win.
"That game was hard on the heart," said Coach Brown. "Hats off to Ozark for their incredible effort and near perfect game plan. They really made us work for that one today, and both teams should be incredibly proud of their effort. Our theme that developed throughout the match today was "as a team." Whatever we did, we wanted to do it as a team. We won as a team. Sure, Salinas was huge in the shootout, but our defense did a great job holding Ozark scoreless for 110 minutes. The midfield and offense did what they needed to do, and the reserves on the bench were fired up all game long. The conference tournament is always tough, and Ozark proved why tonight. What a game!"
The win secured the Eagles second ever trip to the MCCC conference championship match since joining the conference in 2014. The game will be a rematch of last year's championship as the Eagles will take on the Thunder of Manhattan Christian College (Manhattan, KS). Manhattan won the previous year's matchup after Emmaus made several costly errors in the first half, allowing Manhattan to jump to an early four goal lead. This year, the Eagles are hungry for another shot at Manhattan, who have consistently been one of the top seeds in the Conference. The match is scheduled for 2:00 on Saturday afternoon.