By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ
Despite not winning the NJCAA National Tournament, the Pima Community men’s soccer team had a successful run this season.
Perhaps the most triumphant moment came when they managed to snag the program’s first ACCAC conference championship.
“I think this team way overachieved,” head coach Dave Cosgrove said. “They took advantage of every opportunity they had. The had to face so much adversity but still found a way to make history.”
The Aztecs (17-3-3) victory on Nov. 4 against Otero College (10-6-2) would be pivotal in earning them a spot in NJCAA Division I Tournament.
The first match of the national tournament was on Nov. 11. The No. 8 Aztecs faced the No. 12 Central College Cougars.
The Aztecs attacked straight from the first whistle blow.
The first goal of the game came in the 22nd minute when freshman Daisuke Takanaka set up freshman Hugo Kametani for a shot 12 yards out.
The Aztecs would widen the Cougar’s goal deficit in the 32nd minute when Kametani passed the ball to sophomore Chris Cooper who rocketed the ball 16 yards out.
Freshman goalkeeper David Silva’s 5 saves kept the Aztecs’ momentum alive.
The Aztecs safety goal came when sophomore Julian Gaona assisted freshman Jose Romero. The Cougar’s only goal of the game would come too late in the 85th minute.
Next, the Aztecs faced its toughest opponents in the quarterfinals.
Nov. 15: PCC 3, St. Louis CC 1
The No. 8 Aztecs came into the quarterfinals as the underdogs facing the No. 1 St. Louis Archers.
The Aztecs proved they were a force to be reckoned with in the 22nd minute when Gaona crossed the ball to Takanaka who scored off a header.
14 minutes into the second half, Takanaka placed a shot 18 yards out into the left side of the net.
The safety goal came in the 72nd minute when Kametani hit a 16-yard shot with an assist from Luis Gonzales.
This marked the Archers’ first loss of the season.
Nov. 17: PCC 2, Southcraft College 4
The Aztecs were quick to take the lead in the fifth minute of the semifinal when Cooper scored off a header inside the box.
The Aztecs got their second goal of the game in the 36th minute when Takanaka set up Kametani.
The Ocelots responded one minute later with a goal.
In the second half, the Ocelots played the ball quick desperately looking for an equalizer. The Ocelots put the pressure on the Aztecs defensive line.
The effort paid off in the 80th minute when the Ocelots got its second goal.
Both teams searched for a goal to put them on top, however, the Ocelots would score two goals within the final 10 minutes of the match, ending the Aztecs tournament run.
“I believe that if we would have kept the 2-0 lead in the first half we would have won the game,” sophomore defender Adrian Valenzuela said. “Once we let them score the two goals to let them tie it up, everything started going downhill for us.”
The Aztecs finished in third place for the NCJAA tournament with Takanaka being selected for the NJCAA Division I All-Tournament team.
“Daisuke was very important to our entire season success,” Cosgrove said. “He is a very dynamic ‘1-v-1’ player and works hard. Like many of our other players, there is no way we would have accomplished so much without Daisuke.”
Cosgrove said it’s hard to pick up each season after losing key players.
“Unlike other schools, we don’t have student housing and are very limited in scholarship money,” Cosgrove said. “We don’t have a huge population like Phoenix to draw from.”
Cosgrove said it comes down to finding local players.
“Like all Pima coaches we try to identify talent, develop them and create a culture of hard work and belief in what we are doing,” Cosgrove said. “It takes a ton of time and hard work. The formula seems to work well for us.”