Oklahoma Wesleyan’s men’s soccer team earned the right to take a trip to Montgomery, Ala., in early December.
It was the third consecutive trip to the NAIA Tournament, but the first time OKWU has moved on to the final site.
Eagles coach Jamie Peterson said his boys are happy, but aware of where they are in the playoff journey.
“Our goal is still not reached, but I think everybody is still pretty excited,” Peterson said. “This is one of the smaller goals that you have to reach to be able to get to the big one. And I think that every is pretty geared up and ready to go and just wanting to get to Alabama and get this thing started.”
OKWU earned the right to play at home as the No. 3 seed, but weather and field conditions in Bartlesville pushed the match south to Claremore at Soldier Field at Rogers State University. There were pros and cons to that according to Peterson.
“It gave us a good surface to play on, which fits our playing style. For us, it might have even been an advantage.
“It wasn’t ideal losing fans to travel and things like that, but it terms of playing conditions it was pretty optimal for what we wanted to do. And we had a few faithful fans come out.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan struck early with Jack McGowan’s goal 15 minutes in – the first of two on the day for him. OKWU scored twice more in the next five minutes.
Peterson said this was big against a quality Embry-Riddle team.
“They were well coached. Adam Pierce does a great job.
“I just think that when we jumped out to an early lead it just built for us some momentum and we were early to find a couple more goals and go up 3-0 and dodge a bullet when they hit the right post on a shot. And that was the difference in the day in a game of inches.”
OKWU entered the match ready to take the next step in the playoffs.
“I think the boys were focused throughout a week of training and came in that way,” Peterson said. “They were sharp connecting passes early and possessing the ball well. And then finding an early goal helps settle any type of nerves that might be there.”
And Peterson’s crew is well put-together for a run deep into that first week of December.
“With our guys, we have a bunch of young guys mixed in with a few veteran guys. The young guys think they can conquer the world and the veterans know what it takes to get there. So it’s a good mix for us.”
The Eagles will next face Concordia (Calif.), who defeated Corban (Ore.), 4-0, as well on Saturday.
“Concordia is a very dangerous team, very attack oriented,” Peterson said. “They have a couple of special players and they’re very experienced. They were at the final site last year.
“They throw a lot of numbers forward into the attack and so it should be an exciting game. I think ultimately it will come down to whose defense can hold on and hold the other team out.”
The next match will be on Dec. 2 or 3 at the Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex.