DES MOINES, IA - Earlier in the season freshman Andrew Valett (Davenport, IA), asked his coaches what he could do to help his team and score goals this season. Their answer was simple, just keep working hard and make the winning goal to send them to Nationals.
At the 26th minute of play in the first half of the Region XI championship game at the Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines, Valett would do just that by out jumping the rest of a field and putting a header in the back of the net, off a corner kick by sophomore Jose Damaceno (Sao Paolo, Brazil). The first goal of the season for Valett would prove to be the lone goal of the contest, propelling the MCC men's soccer team (13-5-2), past NJCAA Division I, third ranked Iowa Western Community College (17-1-1).
"It's like a movie," said head coach Rafael Martinez. "In Minnesota, Andy came to us and asked how he could help his team and score more goals. We told him to just keep working hard and be patient. We jokingly told him that he could just simply score the goal that would take us to Nationals."
The setup for the winning goal would not be an easy feat as the Tigers would first need to find a way past 9th ranked Iowa Central Community College (9-2-2) on Saturday. The Tigers last meeting with the Tritons on October 17, ended in a double overtime tie.
MCC took a 1-0 lead into halftime in Saturday's contest, but the Triton's would answer with two goals by Abelson Estimable, giving his team a 2-1 advantage.
In the final five minutes of play, the Tigers would use two corner kicks by sophomore Bruno Liozzi (Sao Paolo, Brazil) to setup two scores. The first was delivered to sophomore Joao de Olivera (Sao Paolo, Brazil) and the second to sophomore Javier Lopez (Granada, Spain) for the deciding goal.
"The game was full of what we expected," said Martinez of the Iowa Central match. "There were good goals and great performances by both teams, a lot of heart and effort was on the field."
That heart and effort carried over into to Sunday's match with Iowa Western, especially in the goal box. Sophomore Alfredo Piedra (Columbus Junction, IA), recorded eight saves on the day, three coming in the last four minutes of play, keeping the Reivers scoreless.
The Reivers controlled most of the match offensively, out-shooting the Tigers 10-3, but it was the Tiger's tenacity on the defensive end of the field that would hold on for the 1-0 shutout.
"It was the longest 15 minutes ever," said Martinez of the final minutes of play. "We told our guys at halftime that the second half was going to feel like 90 minutes of play in one half. We also told them to just breathe and remember their roles. It's just an amazing feeling, I'm so proud of this team."
With the win, the Tigers advance to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament in Albany, Georgia, November 12-17, at Darton State College. The last appearance for the Tigers was in 2007 where the team finished third.