When the 2000 First-Knox Cougar Invitational Tournament gets under way on the campus of Mount Vernon Nazarene College on Friday afternoon, fans will be treated to some of the best small college soccer action in the region as MVNC, Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College, Judson (Ill.) College, and Nyack (N.Y.) College make up the highly-competitive four-team field.
The host Cougars (2-0-0) are off to a good start with victories over Trinity International (Ill.) University and Judson last weekend. MVNC posted a 17-5-2 record in 1999, and the Cougars are in the midst of their most challenging schedule ever in 2000. Junior forward Preston Elifritz leads MVNC with three goals, while senior forward Josh Robson and senior midfielder Rick Collins have each scored twice in the balanced Cougar attack. Sophomore Trevor Knowles is also coming off a tremendous performance against Judson in which he posted the team's first shutout of the young season.
Roberts Wesleyan (2-2-0) enters play this weekend ranked #8 in the NAIA preseason poll. The Raiders are coming off 15-4-1 season in which they won the NAIA Region IX Tournament and advanced to the second round of the NAIA National Tournament. Roberts Wesleyan's losses this season came 1-0 at the University of Rio Grande, ranked #23 in the NAIA preseason poll, and 2-1 against unbeaten Walsh University. The Raiders are led by senior goalkeeper Richard Goddard, an NAIA All-American who is allowing just one goal per match so far this season.
Judson (2-1-0) comes into the tournament fresh off a 5-0 win over Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) University on Tuesday. The Eagles went 23-5-0 in 1999 and were the top seed at the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament. The team's only loss so far this year came in a 3-0 shutout by MVNC last Saturday.
Nyack (1-0-1) heads into this weekend's action after playing to a 4-4 draw with Wilmington (Del.) College on Saturday. The Purple Pride began the season with a 3-2 victory over Concordia (N.Y.) College, ranked #23 in the NCAA Division II preseason poll. In 1999, Nyack posted a 16-9-1 overall record and won the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference title. Senior forward Jason Rollins leads the team with five goals already in the team's first two matches this season.
"We are very excited about this year's tournament," said MVNC head coach Paul Furey. "First off, we welcome First-Knox National Bank as our new sponsor in helping us make this tournament possible. I am also excited to have an outstanding pool of teams that are each well-respected in their conference and nationally."
"It is great to have a unique interaction and fellowship time with the four teams as we come together for a tournament brunch on Saturday," Furey added. "Added to that, we are extremely pleased to have Mike (Clark, the captain of the Columbus Crew) as our special guest. It is nothing less than a very promising weekend around soccer."
Action will get under way on Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. when Roberts Wesleyan plays Judson. MVNC will square off with Nyack in a rematch of the 1999 NCCAA East Region championship match at 4:00 p.m. On Saturday, Judson will face Nyack at 1:00 p.m. and the Cougars will take on Roberts Wesleyan at 3:00 p.m. An awards ceremony with the team trophies and all-tournament team announcement will follow the final match.