They came, they saw, they conquered – and now Kansas City Kansas Community College is headed for the three-state NJCAA Plains District soccer playoff championship for the first time in history
A dramatic 1-0 overtime upset winner over No. 7 ranked Cloud County at Concordia Sunday, the Blue Devils will open the four-team Plains District playoffs against Rose State College of Midwest City, Okla., Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Topeka's Hummer Park.
One of two Region VI in the playoffs, KCKCC will take a 10-3-1 record into the opener against Rose State, the Region II champion (13-5-1) and winner of five in a row. The other semifinal will pit Barton County (14-5-1), the second of two teams from Region VI; against the Region V champion, Ranger (Tex.), 9-2, in a 4 p.m. contest. The championship will be decided Friday at noon with the winner advancing to the NJCAA Division I national tournament. .
The Blue Devils needed just 2½ minutes of overtime Sunday for the biggest soccer win in KCKCC history. Sophomore Ricardo Angelo slipped in past the back post and headed in the game's only goal on a perfectly placed corner kick by freshman Gustavo Palmieri at the 2:32 mark of overtime. The goal set off a wild celebration at midfield by the jubilant Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils played much of the game without sophomore forward Guilherme Grave, who suffered a broken nose. "That impacted the game because we were without an experienced forward and it disrupted the flow," said KCKCC Coach Ruben Rodriguez. "However, the defense really stepped up."
"A very good win," agreed assistant coach Burke Slusher. "We knew going in that we were going to have to shut down their No. 10 (Luiz Garcia) and Emanuel Hernandez did a very good job on him. And we needed to limit the touches of No. 18 (Robert Kelly) and our entire midfield did a great of that. To win we had to battle 90 minutes and we did that – and more."
Cloud County's best scoring chance came in the final minute when Rafael Santos had a shot from inside the box turned aside by Blue Devils goalkeeper Youssef Gadelkerim with five seconds remaining. Gadelkerim had four saves as the Thunderbirds had just seven shots on goal while KCKCC had eight shots on goal capped by the gamer-winner.
"They (the Blue Devils) came in here with the mentality of playing physical, disrupting us and they did that," said Cloud coach James Ross. "That really sped up our play, which is not our game. KCKCC did a really good job of taking us out of our game."
The loss was only the second in the last 15 games for Cloud (14-3), which had won back-to-back KJCCC West titles and was seeking a return trip to the national tournament. "I told the guys before the game that the only way KCKCC was going to beat us was if it came off a set piece or a corner kick," said Ross. "In my mind, we made the mistake of making a defensive clear for a corner kick when we had the chance to clear it for a throw in. But our defender was hustling back and I'm going to fault him for that."
PHOTO IDENTS (happy soccer)
It was a happy group of Blue Devil soccer players who earned KCKCC's first NJCAA Plains District playoff berth Sunday with a 1-0 overtime upset at No. 7 ranked Cloud County. (KCKCC Photo by Tony Tompkins)