Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
The USAO men’s soccer team is heading to Alabama after winning in the first round of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship at Hampton Field against Grand View University (Iowa).
With a large, supportive crowd filling the bleachers of the field named after the Drovers’ head coach, USAO won its first-ever home national tournament game 2-0 over the Vikings.
The Drovers still haven’t lost a game this season, with a record for 14-0-4 this season. Grand View ends the season with a 9-8-2 record.
With the special atmosphere leading up to and surrounding the game, combined with the disappointing way the Drovers ended their last game Nov. 3 against OCU in the first round of the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament, head coach Jimmy Hampton said his team was more excited than normal about the game.
“We talked all week coming into it, if it’s your last game, let it be your last game flying 120 miles an hour,” Hampton said. “But don’t leave with your head down like I thought we did last game. Whatever result comes our way, comes our way. Let’s just be really proud of our effort.”
The game was scoreless for most of the first period, until reserve Ryan Clougherty put in his second goal of the season off a header from Scott Parkinson with four minutes left in the first half.
The Drovers continued to play solid defense led by goaltender Bryan Byars and defender Parkinson, and scored its second goal near the mid-point of the second half, when Grand View committed a foul in the box.
“Scottie has good DNA about him,” Hampton said. “He’s a coach on the field. You’ve got to keep him under control at times so he doesn’t get out, but it’s good to have him back there. I’d rather play with him than without him. He’s a leader and an organizer. He’s got good football DNA. He’s a hard player. He’s the whole package back there for us, and he had a great game tonight.
Niall Burley scored the penalty kick, and USAO cruised to the victory from there. Hampton said the athletic advantage his team had came into play.
“They [Grand View] are very well organized on the football side, and they’re very well-disciplined,” Hampton said. “I thought at times maybe they were in a good spot but our athleticism allowed us to get out of it, and on the attacking side, two goals and we put them under a lot of pressure.”
Up next for the Drovers is a second-round game against No. 12 Belhaven (Miss.) at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27 at the Emory Folmar YMCA Complex in Montgomery, Ala. Hampton said he wanted his team to enjoy the victory for a while, but said there is always work left for them to do.
“Probably enjoy this for a little bit, but I thought we probably could have valued the ball a little bit better at times, and I thought we could have made a few better decisions in the attacking third on a few opportunities, but it’s an ongoing thing until you win a national title I guess there’s something you can always work on,” Hampton said.