Darton's Troy Tucker was named the MVP of the region tournament after helping Darton win the region title and advance to the nationals, which will be held at Darton. beginning Nov. 12.
ALBANY -- Wearing shorts and covered in ice water in chilly 50 degree weather, Darton State College soccer head coach Bart Sasnett shivered a little, but the adrenaline was still pumping.
“I’ll be fine” Sasnett said. “I’ll be ready for practice (today) and I’ll be ready to get this thing going for the national tournament.”
The NJCAA top-ranked Cavs remained unbeaten on the season at 17-0 and punched their ticket to the national tournament in two weeks with a 2-1 win over South Georgia College Sunday to win the Region XVII tournament for the second year in a row.
Darton will most likely be the top seed of the 12 teams qualifying for the national tournament, held Nov. 12-17 in Albany at Darton College, where the Cavs haven’t lost in almost two seasons. They said as much after the region championship Sunday, chanting, “We don’t lose at home,” after beating South Georgia College for the third time this season.
Troy Tucker, for one, was on Cloud 9.
“It feels good,” Tucker said. “Undefeated season; won the region tournament; got the most valuable player. It feels real good.”
Tucker was named the Region XVII Most Valuable Player after he scored with just a minute before half on a perfectly timed pass from Jorge Chorinos, just right of the net that put Darton ahead 2-0.
“I saw the back of the net,” Tucker said. “I saw the back corner and said, ‘Yea, let me hit the back corner and I hit it.’ Then I had to go support our fans and give them respect for coming to support us.”
Tucker headed for the sideline stands after the goal and celebrated with a mob of Darton fans. The goal was even bigger because Darton was down a man after Cavs’ defender Soren Yuhaschek was red-carded midway through the first period. He will miss the first game at nationals.
“You can’t coach how they played down a man,” Sasnett said. “That came from inside. That was a lot of heart, a lot of sweat, a lot of determination. I was proud of them.”
South Georgia College (12-3) mounted a threat with 16:28 left to play when Alloy Buckle hammered home a kick in the right corner of the net from 20 yards out to cut the lead to 2-1.
Tigers’ forward Lloyd Matthews barely missed wide left of the goal with 9:33 to play before Darton’s defense ended South Georgia College’s season with all three losses coming to the Cavs.
“The only three losses on the year were to the No. 1 team in the country,” SGC head coach Ben Horner said. “It’s difficult, but the guys worked their butts off and had a good season.”
Freshman Alejandro Garcia, who kicked the game-winner in a 1-0 semifinal win over Wallace State Saturday, put Darton ahead in the 23rd minute with a close-range goal from the side of the net.
Darton, which won the Southeast District at Spartanburg Methodist College last season before finishing third at the national tournament, will not have to play a district qualifier this season and enters the national tournament at home as the likely top seed and favorite. Tournament seedings have yet to be announced.
“Every team is good this time (of year),” Tucker said. “It will be a good advantage for us (playing in Albany) because we haven’t lost at home in a couple of years.”
The NJCAA national tournament begins Nov. 12 with four games each day through Nov. 14. All 12 seeded teams will play two games in pool play, with the No. 1 seed grouped with the No. 8 and 12 seeds. Pool winners advance to the national semifinals Nov. 16 with the national title played Nov. 17 at Darton.