With their school-record 18th victory of the season, the Maryville College men's soccer program claimed the 2016 USA South soccer championship with a 2-1 victory over North Carolina Wesleyan College on Saturday evening on MC's campus pitch.
The Battling Bishops got on the scoreboard first with a controversial goal nearing the 23rd minute in the first half. With a Wesleyan player down, Maryville stopped play attempting to kick the ball out. Bishop A.J. Wadda stole the pass and deposited his 10th goal of the season unassisted.
Just two minutes later Maryville would even the contest on an unbelievable goal.
Fast approaching the 24th minute, freshman Chris Fernandez saw the keeper out at the top of the box. He lofted an attempt from over 45-yards out and the high bounce caught the upper right of the net past Bishop keeper Alex Magner.
The match played to a standstill at the half. North Carolina Wesleyan controlled the offensive pace out shooting the Scots 9-2 at the intermission.
The Scots took the eventual lead just ten minutes into the second half.
USA South player of the year Caleb Lucas, double and triple teamed throughout the tournament, found a seam to push an attack into the box. He found fellow senior Tim Baker who saw a diving keeper. Baker deposited his 13th goal of the season and the eventual tournament-winner with a left foot attack into the lower left of the goal.
Coach Fernandez was proud of his squad's resolve during the tough tournament. "They've won in all kinds of ways this year. They've won where they dominated offensively, and they held a lead tonight. Last night, they came back in the game, and we came back in the game at N.C. Wesleyan. I couldn't be prouder of them. It shows a lot of togetherness, and it shows them playing for each other. Those things go a long way."
Tournament MVP Tim Baker amazed Coach Fernandez and his teammates with his determination this weekend. "We were pretty convinced that he was not going to play at all, and probably not any normal soccer player – or any normal human – would be able to play," Fernandez said. "It's a six-week injury, and he is less than two weeks out. He could not kick the ball with his right leg at all, but he did it anyway. He picked up an assist and a goal, when we were hoping we would get him back for the National Tournament. I can't say enough about that boy and his work ethic. He's very deserving. Not only is he a super-talented player, but he works all the time at this game. He loves this game."
Coach Fernandez was excited to see his players and fan base express the emotion during the post-game celebration. "It means a lot to me. As an older coach, the wins and losses, the wins are always nice. I really wanted to keep seeing this group of boys play and see how they would do in the national picture. They are such a fantastic group of kids. That emotion right there, I was pretty overwhelmed by it."
Maryville's victory moves the Scots to 18-2 on the season. The win allows MC to claim their first USA South men's soccer title since joining the league in 2012. This is their first league title since claiming seven Great South Athletic Conference crowns, the last in 2011. MC's victory gives them the USA South's automatic bid to the NCAA post-season. This will be Maryville's, and Coach Pepe Fernandez's, fourth trip to the NCAA tournament. Their last post season push was in 2005 with stops also in 1995 and 1996.
2016 All-Tournament Team:
Forward – Tim Baker, Maryville – MVP
Forward – Austin Lang, Methodist
Forward – Olafur Einarsson, N.C. Wesleyan
Midfield – Johnny Rakhmonberdiev, Maryville
Midfield – Chris Fernandez, Maryville
Midfield – Jordan Davis, N.C. Wesleyan
Defense – Nate Long, Maryville
Defense – Thomas Palmer, Maryville
Defense – Cole Watkins, Greensboro
Defense – Halldor Bjarneyjarson, N.C. Wesleyan
Goalkeeper - Ryan Jorgensen, Maryville