Vikings Lose National Championship On Penalty Kicks


Region 19 Champs
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, TX. 

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 Award.

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 more goals

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.

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