By JAMES KELLEY
The Pima Community College men’s soccer team has earned an epic win in the playoffs but lost the Regional championship and thus their season ended.
Top-seeded and No. 6 Arizona Western College beat the No. 14 and third-seeded Aztecs (17-6) 2-0 on Oct. 30 in Yuma in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 1 Tournament Final.
“We just didn’t take our chances,” head coach Dave Cosgrove said. “Western played better than us in the first half and got a good goal. In the second half, we played better and created a lot of good chances, we just needed to score a goal.”
The loss came three days after Pima upset second-seeded and then No. 10 Yavapai College on the road in the semifinals 4-1. Yavapai’s loss is their first in the playoffs this century. YC knocked Pima out of the playoffs in Prescott the last five years.
“That’s a historic win,” Cosgrove said. “I keep telling everybody that Yavapai has lost two games west of the Mississippi in the playoffs since 1990 and both have been to Pima.
“That is the first time that Yavapai did not play in a Region final and the fact that it was up there and the score was 4-1 was unbelievable. I don’t think they have ever lost at home that bad, much less in the playoffs.”
Freshman forward Yaya Kane scored Pima’s first goal off of an assist by sophomore forward Minh Vu. Freshman forward Donny Toia scored the Aztecs’ second goal. Both PCC goals were late in the second half.
After Yavapai cut the Pima lead to one, Toia answered with a goal assisted by Vu. In the 82nd minute, Kane scored PCC’s fourth goal. Sophomore goalkeeper Miko Gastelum played the full 90 minutes in goal, making two saves.
Yavapai has won seven National championships and 19 Region championships. The Roughriders’ only other loss in the playoffs was to Pima in 1999.
Before the 1999 win, Pima’s last Region title was in 1988. That was the year before Yavapai started.
Despite the fact that Pima’s Region had five teams ranked in the top 15 this year, the Aztecs’ stellar season and their win for the ages, their season ended. Cosgrove said they have been lobbying for wildcards in the playoffs for years.
“Throughout the 2000s, mostly it’s been Pima. I think we have been in seven of the 10 Regional finals. II think at least three or four of those years our second place team was probably one of the top three in the country. It just happened to be that they lost to either the first or second best team in the country in the final,” Cosgrove said. “We all feel very strongly that’s what should happen.”
Before the tournament started, Cosgrove said that the teams with byes to the semifinals—Western and Yavapai—had a huge advantage. Pima had to play sixth-seeded Scottsdale Community College, which it beat 3-0, in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Yavapai got to rest and play the semifinals at home.
“There’s no doubt, not that that is an excuse, Western deserved to win that night. But that’s the big advantage of being a one or a two seed,” Cosgrove said. “You don’t have to play those extra games then. Extra road trip, extra games, extra everything and it makes it very, very difficult with that game.”
Cosgrove expects Pima to again do well next year. The Aztecs are waiting on decisions on whether some players might return, like forward Donny Toia, who could turn professional. Toia turned down an offer by Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer to play in their youth system, choosing instead to play for Pima this season.
“We anticipate, just as we do every year, that we will be very good and compete for the Region championship and be a top 15 team in the country,” Cosgrove said.
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