BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – Three goals made history for the Drovers on Saturday night as they defeated the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College 3-0 to move on to the second round of the NAIA National Tournament.
“I’m excited. I’m excited for the players, you know,” Coach Jimmy Hampton said. “You’re just happy and proud for them.”
Hampton and the assistant coaches challenged the team to beat last year’s team, who made it to the opening round of nationals for the first time.
“Last year’s team made history,” Hampton said. “I thought they responded well.”
In addition to 6 a.m. practices all year, the Drover men often spent evening hours training themselves even further.
“(The win is) good because obviously the boys have worked hard all year to get there,” Assistant Coach Alexis Vizarelis said. “I think today we got a reward for the hard work. I’m really proud of them.”
But the coaches won’t get much of an opportunity to enjoy the team’s success, however, as they must start planning and preparing for the next round.
The Drovers will move on to the final site in Orange Beach, Ala., and will play at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 29. Their opponent is yet to be determined.
It took the Drovers a few minutes to get settled on the turf field and with the Scorpion fans around on Saturday night, but soon they found their stride.
At just the 21-minute mark, freshman Nicolas Alberto knocked a goal past UTB/TSC keeper Juan Gamboa to put the Drovers in the lead.
The Drovers went into half up 1-0, but they couldn’t quite relax. Senior Richard Norman found senior David Otieno shortly after the second half began to give USAO a second goal in the game.
With less than 10 minutes left in the game, the Drovers sealed the deal as Otieno scored his second and the team’s third off a free kick near the box.
One of the keys to the game, according to Hampton and team captain Sam Shaddick, was defense. Keeper Ryan Mcentee did not have to make many saves because he consistently had the defenders there to block for him.
“The back line … they were good. They worked their socks off tonight,” Hampton said. “We had to try to make our keeper not win the game. Does that make sense?”
Mcentee had three saves in the game.
Despite being up since the 21st-minute of the game, both players and coaches agreed the game wasn’t in the bag until it was 3-0.
“It’s hard just sitting on the sideline,” Vizarelis said. “I think it only got easier when the third goal went in.”
Hampton’s second key to the game was making sure they played together and were not isolated one-on-one.
“It’s the best team game I saw them play in six weeks,” he said. “We worked for each other tonight and not for ourselves.”
Many of the players were saying how unbelievable they thought it was, but not junior Niall Crick.
“I really can believe it,” he said. “I really expected it. We were given this second chance. You have to take it.”
And take it they did.
Published: Nov. 20, 2010