The Mississippi College Men’s Soccer team had a very successful regular season, but they are not finished yet. After defeating the Louisiana College Wildcats 4-2, the Choctaws won the American Southwest Conference regular season championship for the second year in a row. They await the date and location of their next game, their second consecutive voyage into the postseason.
Team captain Daniel Lang said the team went into the final game with confidence. “I’m very pleased. We didn’t expect anything else,” said Lang.
With this win the Choctaws is also placed 4th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of American West Region rankings. The men’s soccer team is also receiving votes to be ranked in the Top 25 after finishing the season with 11 straight games without defeat.
“No one can ever take that from us. Those guys will go out being the only time our soccer department has won back to back championships,” said Head Coach Kevin Johns.
MC is making the transition from Division III to Division II, which will help the school in the long run, but unfortunately has some drawbacks this year and prevents the men’s soccer team from defending their title in the ASC tournament championship.
“For our program’s future it’s a better thing, but you feel bad for the seniors,” said Johns. “There were eight seniors and here was a chance for them to go back to back in the conference tournament also and play in the NCAA playoffs again. But they did what they needed to do and we won the regular season championship.”
The team is excited about the move to Division II. “It was kind of hard this year because we wanted to compete in the NCAA (national tournament) again and go farther,” said Lang. “But we understand we can play later in the NCCAA, and we can go really far with that.”
Lang said that the team learned this season to take everything one game at a time while not focusing too much on the future.
The Choctaws are eligible for postseason play with the National Christian College Athletic Association. The team awaits their playoff schedule, with details to be released by the NCCAA soon.
No matter what comes after the season, the team will not be able to redeem themselves from last year’s second round exit from the NCAA tournament.
“It’s still a little bitter sweet, but leaves a good taste in the mouth what the guys left in the program and everything moving forward,” said Johns.
Coach Johns is looking forward to Division II but says his staff team sees it as a learning curve. “I’m not going to say we are going to win lots and lots of games, but I think we can compete pretty quickly. We have some really talented guys,” said Johns. “I think we’re ready to compete, talent-wise.”
Upgrading to Division II and facing some more challenging teams, the soccer team is getting ready to focus on training and preparing for next season.
“It’s going to be more of a day in and day out grind in Divison II, where every week you are going to play someone who can defeat you,” Johns said. “We are going to need a little more depth to do it every day.”
One of the biggest benefits of Division II is that now the school will have a larger field of recruiting. Johns says that with the rules of Division II now there is also more time to put into the training. There will also be less travel in Division II, and so that will mean less class missed for players.
Lang expressed how the team appreciates seeing fans in the stands at Longabaugh Field. “We’re fun to watch. We have a lot of great players. Come out and watch, and you won’t be disappointed.”
– James Osborne, Contributing Writer