After going scoreless in regulation and going through two overtimes, the Tyler Junior College men’s soccer team capped off their perfect season capturing their first ever National Championship.
“It feels amazing to have had the perfect season,” freshman defensive player Joe Setchell said.
And although the Apaches had an undefeated season, that didn’t make any of the games any easier than the rest.
“Having the perfect season makes it seem as though we didn’t have any major competition, which wasn’t the case,” Setchell said.
“There were many times we had to pull together to maintain the record against some strong opponents.”
The Apaches beat No.2 ranked Georgia Perimeter 5-3 in a shootout to win the final game. TJC was ranked No.1 in five out of the 10 national polls this season and they qualified for the National Tournament for the first time since 1988.
Preparing for Nationals, however, was a season-long journey.
“Physically we were prepared with conditioning a week prior to leaving, we were fit and ready,” Setchell said.
Being well conditioned and mentally prepared, TJC made getting wins in the tournament look almost easy, outscoring their opponents 8-2 throughout the first two games. The games were well handled until they met No.2 ranked Georgia Perimeter. Scoreless through the entire game including two overtimes, the teams were evenly matched. It was only in the shootout did TJC finally take the lead and finish the game off, getting the final “W” in the win column.
Having 15 freshmen joining the team this year, along with 12 sophomores, head coach Steve Clements was confident in the beginning of the season that the returning players would take leadership over the team to help the freshman transition to a more collegiate level. However, team chemistry was never an issue for the team.
“The team chemistry is so strong,” Setchell said, “which is why it is no surprise to many of us that we had the season that we did. We grew as a team and family and were confident in each other’s ability.”
Now that the season has come to an end, the team has begun their off-season training, which includes weight training and the occasional scrimmages to keep them in shape. The team is already looking forward to next season and the new faces Coach Clements will bring in.
“We’re losing a lot of players, eight of the starting 11,” Setchell said. “Next year will be exciting though. Coach will bring in quality from everywhere as he usually does and as sophomores we will have the advantage because we know what it takes now to win Nationals and the hard work that you have to put in to get there.”