Viking Views Summer 2021 (FB)

the conference tournament championship game 2-0, the Vikings had secured an automatic berth into the National tournament. The team was awarded the opportunity to host two opening round games of the National championship in the Marshall (Mo). Bracket, which included two programs that had previously won National championships. Rio Grande (Oh) was Missouri Valley’s first round opponent. After a scoreless first half, goals from Miroslav Markovic and Kainan Dos Santos helped the team to a 2-1 victory. The second home National tournament game featured Hastings (Neb.), which had eliminated Missouri Valley from the 2010 and 2013 National tournaments. The Vikings scored four goals in the first half of play, and Dusan Milosevic made five saves to earn a shutout in the 4-0 victory, which sent the team to the National championship site near Augusta, (Ga). “We had the toughest possible teams come to Marshall for the first two rounds,” said Simic. “It was a big advantage to play those games at home with all the

players,” said Simic. “I was risking our tournament future by not starting both Luka Gluscevic and Tom Preston. Luka was playing the entire tournament through a significant injury, but once we were down by two goals, I had to rely on those guys to come in and change the game. Thankfully, that’s what happened, and we made the most of the opportunities we created, especially late in that game.” Next up was a third meeting with Central Methodist. The rivalry between the two programs had grown in stature over the previous few seasons, as both teams competed for not only conference championships, but National championships as well. This was the second time in three seasons the two programs would meet late in the National tournament, as the Eagles defeated Missouri Valley on penalty kicks in the National championship match in 2018. “There was a lot of motivation for our guys going into that game,” said Simic. “The loss in 2018 played a role in our motivation, but so did all the other games and interactions from the previous seasons. I knew we were ready to play that game.”

travel and protocols visiting teams had to go through. Our goal was to be at our peak physically by the National tournament, and I think we achieved that goal.” Advancing out of the Marshall Bracket put the team into the National quarterfinals as the No. 4 seed. The Vikings traveled to Georgia with a possible rematch

In what was a surprise to most people outside the team, Missouri Valley jumped out to an early lead against Central Methodist, building up a 3-0 advantage in less than 17 minutes of play and the Vikings carried that three-goal advantage into halftime. Central Methodist fought back, and scored two goals

against Central Methodist looming in the semifinal round, but first was a quarterfinal round game against No. 5 Keiser (Fla.). In what turned out to be the most difficult match of the National tournament for Missouri Valley, the team found itself in a 2-0 deficit midway through the first half. Needing a goal before going into halftime, the Vikings were able to cut into the Keiser lead as Jimenez scored with six minutes to play in the half. Missouri Valley continued to attack Keiser through the second half, but were less than three minutes away from elimination when Dos Santos scored the game-tying goal which eventually sent the teams into overtime at 2-2. After two scoreless overtime periods, the game went into a penalty kick shootout to determine which team would advance into the semifinals. The Vikings found themselves trailing in the shootout, 3-1, but Milosevic made two saves and Paulo Alves converted the sixth PK taken to give the team a 5-4 win in the shootout to advance. “Keiser was an amazing team full of really great

late in the contest, but the win was sealed on a goal from Alves with eight minutes remaining to finish off a 4-2 victory to send the team into the national championship match. “The conditions were perfect for us in the semifinal game,” said Simic. “We were able to take advantage of a great playing surface and field that allowed us to play our type of game, and kept Central Methodist from playing to their strengths. Tactically, everything was executed to the way we expected. From the opening whistle, our guys took it to them, and we were able to score those three early goals very quickly. It was a very satisfying win for the players, but for us as coaches as well.” For as exciting as the semifinal victory was for the team, the focus had to quickly turn to Oklahoma Wesleyan in the National championship match. This marked the third appearance in the National finals for the program since 2017, and the program was still searching for its first National title. The team had one

10 Viking Views | 2021

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