DUBUQUE, IA - The Emmaus Eagles hosted the Midwest Christian College Conference (MCCC) Soccer tournament over the weekend, with the first round "snowed out" after 5 inches of snow fell the on Wednesday night. With the games not playable, the higher seeds automatically advanced to the conference semi-final, pitting Emmaus in a matchup with top seeded Manhattan Christian. The night before the semifinal three teams (Ozark Christian, Emmaus, and Calvary University) worked for 2 hours to shovel a turf field by hand to allow the remainder of the tournament to be played.
Emmaus got off to a good start in their match with Manhattan as an early foul in the box allowed Carson McBain to step up and convert a penalty. Manhattan equalized soon after, however, and took advantage of the narrow turf field to send in multiple long throws and crosses. The MCC Thunder went into the half with a commanding 3-1 lead. The second half saw Manhattan add a goal to their lead before Emmaus began to play their reserves in order to conserve players for the match the next day. When the final whistle blew Manhattan showed why they earned the top seed with a 6-1 victory.
The disappointed Eagles didn't keep their heads down, however, as they were slotted to play the #3 seeded Ozark Conference Ambassadors Saturday morning. Emmaus and Ozark tired 1-1 in regular season conference play with the game ending in the 93rd minute due to lightning. The seeding for the two teams with identical conference records was determined by a coin toss, with Ozark securing the #3 seed. Saturday's battle was to determine actual 3rd place.
The match kicked off at 10:00 AM and saw both teams play with smiles and laughter even as they settled in. Ozark put some pressure on early, but Emmaus countered with some great changes. Emmaus nearly took the lead in the 28th minute when Mason McCarl (#7) found Stephen Sam (#15) open in the middle, but Sam's shot went just wide. As the first half wound down, it was Ozark who managed to get on the board first. 1st Team All-Conference player, Colton Leinbach (#10) created spaced in the middle and fired a left footed shot into side netting from 25 yards out. The visitors took the 1-0 lead into the half.
Ozark doubled their lead in the 2nd half when Andrew Doyle settled a ball over the top and slotted a shot home to give his team a two goal lead.
Trailing by two goals, the Eagles continued to apply pressure, making some adjustments in formation. They were awarded in the 70th minute when Carson McBain (#11) found Mason McCarl's (#7) feet, who neatly returned the ball to Carson behind the Ambassador back line where McBain finished his effort at the near post. Trailing by a goal and with the clock winding down, Emmaus earned a free kick from 35 yards out. In the 87th minute McBain sent a perfect pass to the back post where defender Jake Taylor (#12) headed the ball into the side of the net to bring the home team level.
For the third consecutive match between the two sides the gamed ended up in overtime. Emmaus took the wind in the first OT, but was unable to convert any chances. The second OT looked much the same as the teams prepared for penalty kicks. It was not to be, however, as Emmaus struck gold in the 107th minute. After some confusion on a possible handball at midfield, Reilly Steel (#10) responded quickly, established possession, and fed a through ball to McBain (#11) at the top of the defense. McBain found himself one on one with the Ozark keeper and managed to poke the ball through to give his side the 3-2 win and 3rd place in the tournament.
"What an exciting game," said Coach Brown. "Both teams played with great heart and excellent sportsmanship, and the game really could have gone either way. Even down 2-0 I never felt like we were out of it. It was a great team effort as our defense really stepped up, our keeper, Bauder, made some big saves late, and we did what we hadn't managed to do all year: win in overtime! This will be my last match at home coaching the Eagles as I plan to step down after this year, and it was a great game to end on. So proud of these guys, and impressed by Ozark as well both for their quality play and their show of Christ-likeness on the field. This match will definitely be one I remember!"
The Eagles will continue their season on Thursday in Ankeny, Iowa as they play in the NCCAA2 North Region. They are the #6 seed entering the tournament and will play #3 Moody Bible Institute. The Archers from Moody got the best of Emmaus early in the season with a 2-0 win, so Emmaus will look to get one back.