The Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's soccer team is hoping that the third time is the charm as the Cougars prepare to take part in the 2000 National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament at the Austin-Tindall Park in Kissimee, Florida.
MVNC is making its third straight appearance in the NCCAA National Tournament, and the team has improved on its finish each year. In 1998, the Cougars claimed third place in their first trip to the event. In 1999, the team finished second as they fell 4-1 in the championship match to two-time defending champion East Texas Baptist University.
"It is great to be going back to the national tournament for the third straight year," said head coach Paul Furey. "Even though we came up a bit short last year in the championship match, it was still a great experience. Hopefully, we can top last year's showing which would mean winning the national championship."
"It will be a tremendous challenge to win this tournament," Furey added. "The tournament field is made up of excellent teams such as Bethel (Ind.) College, The Master's (Calif.) College, and East Texas Baptist. It should make for a great tournament and superb competition."
MVNC enters the tournament with a 14-6-1 overall record as the East Region representative. The Cougars, who are seeded third in the eight-team event, are led by senior forward Josh Robson, the East Region Player of the Year, who has scored 18 goals and added 10 assists. Junior forward Preston Elifritz (15 goals and 14 assists) and sophomore goalkeeper Trevor Knowles (eight shutouts and a 1.14 goals against average) have also contributed heavily to the team's success.
MVNC will face sixth-seeded Piedmont (Ga.) College at 5:00 p.m. on Friday in the quarterfinals of the tournament. The Lions, who are 13-7-0 overall, won the South Region Tournament with victories over Tennessee Temple University and Gardner-Webb (N.C.) University. Piedmont is led by freshman forward Stephen Andrew with 22 goals and 15 assists. Freshman goalkeeper Robert Weisel has also posted a 1.30 goals against average.
The winner of the match between MVNC and Piedmont will face the winner of the match between second-seeded The Master's and seventh-seeded Indiana Wesleyan University.
The Master's is the West Region representative, and the Mustangs bring a 16-4-0 overall record into the tournament. The Master's is led by junior forward Anthon Brueggeman (11 goals and three assists) and senior forward Rusty Brooke (seven goals and nine assists).
Indiana Wesleyan (12-9-0) advanced to the tournament as the Mid-West Region champion with a 2-1 victory over Cedarville University. In that match, junior forward Luke Carpenter scored both of the Wildcats' goals. Junior midfielder Mark Burton also leads the team with 14 assists on the season.
In other quarterfinal action on Friday, top-seeded Bethel (20-2-1) will take on eighth-seeded Trinity International (Ill.) University (12-7-2), while fourth-seeded and defending champion East Texas Baptist (17-3-0) will face fifth-seeded Union (Tenn.) University (16-4-0).
Bethel, an at-large team, is led by freshman forward Rafael Perez with 24 goals, while junior goalkeeper Lee Duracz has posted a 0.86 goals against average. Meanwhile, Trinity International, the North Central Region winner, is paced by junior midfielder Josh Newman, who leads all NCCAA players with 20 assists.
Senior forward Justin Cooley leads East Texas Baptist, the Central Region champion, with 16 goals and seven assists, while senior forward Kenny Morris has also scored 14 goals. Senior forward Trey Carlile has also posted 11 goals and 19 assists. Union, the Mid-East Region winner, is led by sophomore forward Joesphet Phiri with 19 goals and freshman midfielder Kyle McDermite with nine assists. The Bulldogs' goalkeeper, Jeff Lean, has also posted a 0.64 goals against average.
Each team in the tournament will play three matches as the tournament will be played out to all eight places. All four quarterfinal matches will take place on Friday with the semifinals and consolation bracket to be held on Saturday. The championship match and the final consolation matches will take place on Monday.