Vikings Lose National Championship On Penalty Kicks
|The Vikings celebrate
after defeating Essex in the Region 19 championship on Nov. 8
In a major soccer game, half a foot can make the difference between
a national title and living with runner-up status. That’s the hard
reality for Mercer’s Men’s Soccer team following its loss to archrival
Yavapai Community College (AZ) in the NJCAA title game on Nov. 23 in Tyler,
Going ahead by two goals early in the
match-up and dominating the game overall, the Vikings allowed Yavapai to
tie the game in the second half. After two scoreless overtimes, the
title came down to penalty kicks, with Yavapai the ultimate winner 3-2.
Mercer’s goals were scored by Boomer Kotchin and Umut Angis off assists
by Leon Malca.
According to Head Coach Charlie Inverso,
Mercer outshot Yavapai 14-6, missing the post by inches several times.
"On any given day, your shots go in or they go a little wide. It's
the nature of the game," he said. "Unfortunately on this most important
day, we just happened to miss." This marks the second straight year that
Mercer has fallen to Yavapai in the championship. Mercer finished
its season with an 18-0-2 record. (The title game goes into the record
books as a tie.) Leon Browne and Ramon Bailey were
named to the All-Tournament team. Mercer won the Sportsmanship
Leading up to the final, the Vikings
showed why they were ranked no. 1 prior to the tournament. They faced
no. 3 College of Du Page in the quarter final on Nov. 20, whose roster included
the top scoring player in the country. The Vikings proved their grit,
hanging on to win 2-1 in double overtime on a goal by Oliver Quiah. The
Vikings went ahead in the first half on a goal by Boomer Kotchin; Du Page’s
wonder boy Adam Rudd tied the game in the second half, forcing the overtimes.
Mercer had an easier contest in the semi-final
round, beating Northern Oklahoma 4-0. Sophomore Leon Browne scored
twice for the Vikings; freshmen Muner Hassen and Felipe Faundez added two
Despite its disappointing finale, Inverso is extremely proud of
his team's 2003 season. "I wouldn't change anything about this season
except for the final outcome in the championship," Inverso said. "Some
teams would have tried to sit back on a 2-0 lead but that would not have
worked for us. We are an attacking team and we wanted to go up 3-0 on
them while we had a strong wind at our back. We congratulate Yavapai on
winning a really well played game."
Inverso noted that the Vikings were embraced by fans
in Tyler, TX, during the past two tournaments. "It was pretty amazing
how the fans and even the other teams in the tournament came to like and
appreciate the way we play soccer," he said.
"The only thing I regret is that I won't get to see these
guys on a daily basis for training. I really love these kids. You would
have to be around our team every day to appreciate how special it is to
see such a diverse group of people come together as a team. They were truly
a team," Inverso said.
Inverso noted that even with its no. 1 ranking, Mercer
had no leaders in the national stats. "It was a group effort this
year, which is the best way to play soccer. There was no one player
who held the key to our success," he said. Sophomore Anthony Tuesta
led Mercer's scoring this season with 13 goals, followed by Browne with
12. Kotchin came up big in the tournament with key goals in the quarter-final
and final rounds. Sophomore Brad Lowyns was a steady presence in
goal, behind a defense that gave up only 15 goals all season.
For more on "Men's Soccer 2003" see:
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