MCC advances to soccer finals
By By Austin Bishop/The Meridian Star
TYLER, Texas The Meridian Community College soccer team moved within one step of realizing a dream on Friday night, as they earned a spot in the NJCAA 2000 Division I Men's Soccer Tournament finals with a 3-1 win over Springfield College in Illinois.
MCC faces Bryant &Stratton in the finals at 1 p.m. Sunday at Pat Hartley Field on the campus of Tyler Junior College.
The Eagles fell behind 1-0 in the game with Springfield, but the poised MCC squad didn't let that rattle them.
The goal came on a free kick from 19 yards out by Mike Ngonyani with 34:25 left in the first half. The ball took an odd hop and rolled off the shoulder of MCC goalie Ryan Simms. The sophomore keeper said he thought he snatched the ball out of the air, before it crossed the line, but it was ruled a goal.
Simms said it didn't take him long to put the goal behind him.
Clements said falling behind didn't disturb him at all.
MCC, now 23-1 on the season and winners of 16 straight, tied the match at 1-1 on a goal by Damani Ralph with 17:26 left to play before intermission.
Once that goal was scored, the Eagles were confident they were going to win the match.
Meridian went ahead 2-1 with 8:44 to play in the first half when Ralph ripped a shot in the front of the net, that was blocked by a couple of Springfield defenders, then bounded past the Bulldogs goalie.
The third MCC goal came on a nice shot by Andrew McLeod off a feed from Ralph. Ralph crossed the ball hard across the goal mouth from the right side and McLeod extended his foot parallel to the ground waist high to deflect the ball into the net with 5:59 left in the first half.
Meridian had several scoring attempts in the second half, but couldn't pick up the all-important fourth goal, much to Clements' dismay.
MCC's best scoring opportunity in the last 45 minutes of the game came on a penalty kick by Kahreem Cooke with 6:19 left in the game.
The Eagles dominated the play on the field, winning most of the balls in the midfield area, and launching attack after attack.
Springfield goalie Kasey Gerding played a strong game for the Bulldogs, making several clutch acrobatic saves in the second half to keep his team alive.
MCC outshot Springfield an incredible 25-4 in the match.
The Bulldogs will play in the third-place game against xxxxxx at 11 a.m. on Sunday, while the fourth-place game features Yavapai (Ari.) and Essex at 9 a.m.
Austin Bishop is a sports correspondent for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.