The Eagles travelled to Watertown, Wisconsin over the weekend to participate in the NCCAA2 North Regional Tournament. Emmaus entered the tournament as the #2 seed and squared up in the semifinal on Friday afternoon against the #2 team in the nation, the North Central Rams (Minneapolis, MN).
The game kicked off with both teams battling out in the midfield, creating very few chances. In the 14th minutes Wakilongo Ebake (#17) sent a cross to the back post to forward Mason McCarl (#7), whose header floated over the Rams keeper and onto the top of the net. It was the Rams, however, who first found goal in the 22nd minute when Henry Puchuela (#22) cut in from the left flank and angled a shot into the side net to put his team ahead.
Emmaus continued to battle, nearly equalizing in the 30th minute when McCarl blocked a clearance by the Rams goalie, Gabe Hartwig (#99) and saw his shot slide just wide of the post. Minutes later, Sammy Gitonga won the ball in the Rams' box and knocked it down to Jacob Chacko (#15) who fired the ball high. The half ended with the Rams holding to their one goal lead.
The second half saw the Eagles push for the equalizer, but it was Puchuela who again had the answer for the Rams, winning the end line and sending in a cross to the back post where Jeremiah Zeka (#28) headed home the ball. With a two goal lead, the Rams locked it in on defense, keeping numbers behind the ball. Emmaus did create several close chances, but the ball just wouldn't go in as the game ended with the Rams advancing to the regional final.
The loss marked the end of the road for six seniors: Neal Johnson (#4), Gabriel Salinas (#1), Sammy Gitonga (#6), Tim Barton (#8), Anthony Flores (#10), and Carson McBain (#11). This group of seniors led the team to its best record since 2009 (11-4-1) and their first ever MCCC Conference Championship. Coach Block summed up the senior's legacy by describing how proud he was of their leadership and example.
Coach Brown said it this way: "This has been one of my favorite groups to coach, and not just because they won a lot of games. They developed a culture that values prayer, singing, and fellowship as much as soccer. And don't take that the wrong way, they are a hard-working, talented, and hard-nosed bunch. They just play and live with an awareness that becoming more like Jesus matters most. It has been an absolute privilege to coach these seniors and the team that they lead, and I couldn't be more proud and thankful of all that they accomplished this year. The bar has been set high and my hope and prayer is that the future of Emmaus soccer will see many more teams like this one. To God be the glory."
Highlights from the Eagles season include MCCC Conference Regular season and tournament champions, first time wins over 4 different schools, and the recognition of 8 players to All-Conference teams.