The Missouri Valley College men’s soccer team made their second-straight appearance in the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship game after a difficult start to the season, losing their first game on the road to Southwestern Christian (Okla.). “It was a wakeup call for us right away,” said Men’s Soccer Head Coach Vladimir Simic. “We had to replace a lot of talent on defense from the previous year, and it created a situation at the start of the season where we had to make a lot of adjustments on defense.” Missouri Valley lost the 2017 NAIA National Player of the Year, Uros Ilic, and other leaders on the team’s defense. “The team came together after the loss, and became more focused on what we had to do to improve.” said Simic.
The Vikings won their final five regular season conference matches, outscoring the competition, 18-1. Missouri Valley continued its run, winning the first two matches in the Heart Postseason Tournament, setting up a rematch with Central Methodist, which won the regular season title by a slim margin. The Vikings beat the Eagles 2-1, securing a second-straight Heart Postseason Tournament title. Missouri Valley was given the No. 5 overall seed in the 2019 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship, and Simic felt last year’s experience was going to help them in the National tournament. “We had a lot of experience from the previous season that was going to help us,” said Simic. “Patrick in goal gave us the stability
and confidence we needed, and the guys who played last year were very confident in the team’s potential.” The Vikings opened the tournament with a convincing 4-1 win over Missouri Baptist, then traveled to Orange County, Calif.,
With a 2-1-1 start to the season, and the team in the National rankings, the Vikings hit the road for a match at No. 2 Baker (Kan.). Senior Goalkeeper Patrick Irankunda (Ashford, England) made six
SECOND TRIP TO THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
saves, and a goal from Junior Forward Matteo Ruggieri (Rome, Italy) gave the Vikings the 1-0. “We came into the season expecting to finish near the top of the conference standings, so the win over Baker was huge in working to accomplish that goal,” said Simic. In what was the first of three eventual meetings, the Vikings hosted No. 8 Central Methodist which ended in a 0-0 tie. The team followed with a 1-1 tie against No. 15 Benedictine (Kan.) on Homecoming night. “The stretch to open conference play showed how tough of a conference the Heart is,” said Simic. The turning point for Simic was the 2-0 win in mid-October at MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.). “This was the point where the team had overcome some of the obstacles we experienced at the beginning of the season,” said Simic.
and defeated No. 12 Spring Arbor (Mich.), 2-1. This win pushed the team into the quarterfinal round, where they defeated No. 5 Rio Grande (Ohio) in overtime. The semifinal opponent was No. 1 William Carey (Miss.), who the Vikings defeated 2-1,sending the team to its second-straight National championship. The opponent was Central Methodist, marking the third time the two teams played that season. The game went into overtime, tied at 2-2, but Central Methodist prevailed in a penalty kick shootout, by a 4-3 margin. “It was a disappointment to not win the National title, but it still was an amazing accomplishment to play in a second-straight National final,” said Simic. “I am very proud of this team, and all they accomplished this season.”
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