Darton freshman Matthew Treuman scored the Cavs' only goal in their 1-0 win in their opener of the national tourmament.
PHOENIX — For nearly an hour, the No. 1 junior college soccer team in the nation seemed to find its equal.
That may not have been what was expected against a team that was 9-6 at one point this season.
But when freshman Matthew Treuman found the net from about 15 yards out in the 58th minute, order was restored and Darton all but escaped with a 1-0 win Thursday night in the first round of the National Junior College Athletic Association men’s soccer tournament at the Reach 11 Sports Complex.
“We were lucky,” Darton coach Bart Sasnett said. “But we had better buildups and more opportunities than they had so I think the better team won.”
The top-seeded Cavs (19-1) will now face Monroe (N.Y.) in today’s semifinals. Monroe tied Iowa Western in another first round game but won 4-3 in a penalty kick shootout. A win today puts Darton in the finals Sunday afternoon.
Sasnett did not downplay the importance of Thursday’s victory.
“This is a big win for our program,” he said. “Probably the biggest win ever — so far. So we are happy.”
Eighth-seeded Pima (18-7-1) was a surprise entry after upsetting perennial Arizona power Yavapai in the state tournament and then winning the district title with its ninth win in a row.
The Aztecs live and die with set pieces and had 6-foot-5 Eric Glad in front of Darton goalkeeper Carlos Catano on every corner and free kick that Pima got.
But Catano and his defense turned away every chance.
Darton didn’t have many opportunities in the first half as Pima continually pushed its offensive attack and the Cavs tried to find its rhythm.
After the break, Pima goalkeeper Daniel Bacon had to make a couple of big saves in the first 10 minutes as Darton kicked up its attack. Jowayne Laidley got loose on one play that Bacon saved and then Patrick Dacosta found a gap in the Aztec defense, getting theh ball to a streaking Treuman, who exploited the seam and scored from just inside the goal box on the left side.
“I got an opening, turned around and had confidence in my foot,” Treuman said. “It was a great through pass. I had been seeing it all game and he finally saw me and got it on my foot and I finished it.”
Darton is making its second straight appearance in the national tournament after winning its region last year but losing its first-round match and finishing sixth in the eight-team tourney.
Tyler (Texas) Junior College and Cloud County (Kan.) Community College also advanced Thursday and will play in the other semifinal.
The Cavs were without two of their best players on Thursday as sophomores Diego Ramos, the team’s leading scorer, and Javier Anor both have knee injuries and are not expected to play this weekend.