Viking Views Summer 2021 (FB)

As the game came closer to ending, and the final seconds expired from the clock, the team was celebrating their achievement, but Simic was thinking about everything that led up to that moment, and all the teams, players and coaches that came before. “In the last 30 seconds of the game, you think about all the past accomplishments, and all the outcomes from previous tournaments. All the players, all the coaches, and all the hard work they put in to help build the program to what it has become. The support we’ve had from everyone at the college, from the administration, and everyone else on campus and alumni all helped to get us to this point of being a National champion. Then the final whistle blows and the team explodes in celebration.” The National championship was the culmination of a successful season for the men’s soccer team, but there were other major accomplishments. Gluscevic became one of the most decorated players in program history. He was named the NAIA Player of the Year, NAIA First Team All-American, Most Outstanding Player of the National Tournament, Heart Player of the Year, Heart Co-Offensive Player of the Year and Heart First Team All-Conference. Dos Santos was an NAIA Second Team All-American, and broke the program’s single-season goals record with 18. Gianmarco Donnini was also named an NAIA Second Team All-American, and Preston was an NAIA Third Team All-American. Simic earned National recognition as well, as he and his staff were named the United Soccer Coaches NAIA National Coaching Staff of the Year. In addition, Simic was named the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Coach of the Year. The Vikings finished the season with an overall record of 18-4-2. With all the success the team experienced this season, one thing stands out to Simic from this year’s team. He noticed how unified they were throughout, and how much they enjoyed playing together. “We were the only team in Georgia to celebrate after each win,” said Simic. “You could see the unity this team had in the way they reacted to each other throughout the whole season. I think it went back to the very beginning of the season when everyone got to campus, and we started playing soccer together. They all were excited to get back to playing, especially those that had spent time back in their home country over the summer and were on lockdowns. They were able to get out and have some freedom to play, that enthusiasm carried over throughout the entire season.”

day off to prepare and put its attention towards the match. “Our goal as coaches was to get the team physically ready to play another game,” said Simic. “Even with celebrations and excitement from the semifinal win, we knew our guys would be mentally ready for Oklahoma Wesleyan. It had been a long season, but we had been preparing for this through the hard conditioning work we had put in all year. By the time we got to Georgia, and deep into the tournament, it showed that we were probably the best conditioned team there, and that says a lot for how hard the guys worked all season.” Missouri Valley and Oklahoma Wesleyan have played often recently, with a regular season meeting every year between 2013-2019. However, the Vikings had a record of 1-5-1 in those games. The National championship match proved to be different, however, as Missouri Valley continued its fantastic postseason play throughout the match. The Vikings tested the Oklahoma Wesleyan keeper with three saves through the 28-minute mark of the first half. The team finally broke through ten minutes later, as Dos Santos scored off a rebound to help Missouri Valley take a 1-0 lead at halftime. Despite pressure, the Vikings were able to maintain the lead, and eventually put the game away in the closing minutes. Dos Santos added his second goal of the game with four minutes to play, and sealed the 2-0 victory, as the men’s soccer program earned its first ever National championship. “Oklahoma Wesleyan was a really great team full of amazing players,” said Simic. “Once again, we played our game, and we played very well against a team that was probably better than us overall, but we had the motivation to overcome that. I think our experience from past National tournament runs, and the momentum we created from our wins over Keiser and Central Methodist really played a big part in defeating Oklahoma Wesleyan.” 11

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