OVERLAND PARK – Neosho County Community College was a game short of making history.
The NCCC men’s soccer program (12-7) lost 2-1 to Johnson County Community College (11-5-3) in Overland Park in the NJCAAA Region VI playoffs on Friday, preventing the Panthers from advancing to the Plains District Tournament at Stryker Sports Complex in Wichita for the first time since 2014. This is the third straight loss this season the Panthers have suffered to JCCC.
NCCC’s Kristian Colaci Horbunov scored in the 89th minute.
The Cavaliers’ Brad Tulley scored in the 70th minute, while just five minutes later, Delverone Simpson put his team up 2-nil.
But a little luck played a role in the Johnson County win. The first goal for JCCC was a free kick that hit an NCCC player, which happened to fall right to Tulley in front of the goal.
“I don’t think he was expecting it, but it landed on (Tulley) and all he had to do was shoot to score,” NCCC soccer coach Rafael Simmons said.
For the second goal, the Panthers’ Matheus Paes attempted to clear the ball, but it inadvertently hit a Johnson County player in the back, and JCCC’s Simpson rebounded to score.
“It was just two unlucky goals that we gave up off of deflections, and they were just unlucky,” Simmons said. “When it’s a game that’s that close or that tight, any type of lucky rebound the opposition might get could win you the game. And that’s what happened.”
NCCC’s lone goal scorer in the game continued to mount pressure on the Cavalier defense. Guilherme Oliveira stayed poised on the defensive end, but also did his due diligence on offense.
With NCCC’s season now over, Simmons has a message for his college student-athletes.
“We have a young team. We had four sophomores that started, and I think three that started 90 percent of the games which were No. 6 Elie Lubino, No. 9 Alfie Belcher, and No. 20 Kristian Colaci Horbunov. No. 8 Renan Santos, he started a couple of games, too, but he had some injuries, so he didn’t play as much as the other guys,” Simmons said. “So I think for us, it’s developing over the off-season, maturing a little bit over the off-season, using this year as experience so the freshmen can come back and learn from their mistakes and be a little bit better.
“We have a lot of young players. Hopefully if everyone comes back, if everyone stays eligible and everyone stays away from injuries, hopefully we will be stronger next year with a couple more pieces added to the group.”