JuCo Soccer: Yavapai enters national tournament as No. 3 seed

Roughriders paired with old nemesis Mercer, unfamiliar Waubonsee

Yavapai soccer players gather before the Roughriders take on Phoenix College in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region 1 soccer tournament in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, File)

Yavapai soccer players gather before the Roughriders take on Phoenix College in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region 1 soccer tournament in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, File)

2017 NJCAA Division I Men’s Soccer National Championship Tournament

When: Nov. 13-18, 2017

Where: Mountain Valley Park, Prescott Valley

Pool A

#1 St. Louis (Missouri)

#8 Pima

#12 Illinois Central

Pool B

#2 Schoolcraft (Michigan)

#7 Monroe (New York)

#11 Kansas City-Kansas

Pool C

#3 Yavapai

#6 Mercer County (New Jersey)

#10 Waubonsee (Illinois)

Pool D

#4 Tyler (Texas)

#5 Indian Hills (Iowa)

#9 Louisburg (North Carolina)

POOL PLAY

Monday, Nov. 13

#12 Illinois Central (10-8-2) vs. #1 St. Louis (22-0-0), 9:30 a.m.

#11 Kansas City-Kansas (11-3-2) vs. #2 Schoolcraft (15-0-0), noon

#9 Louisburg (16-5-0) vs. #4 Tyler (19-2-0), 2:30 p.m.

#10 Waubonsee (17-4-1) vs. #3 Yavapai (21-2-3), 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 14

#12 Illinois Central vs. #8 Pima (17-4-3), 9:30 a.m.

#11 Kansas City-Kansas vs. #7 Monroe (12-1-2), noon

#10 Waubonsee vs. #6 Mercer County (19-3-1), 2:30 p.m.

#9 Louisburg vs. #5 Indian Hills (17-2-0), 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 15

#8 Pima vs. #1 St. Louis, 9:30 a.m.

#7 Monroe vs. #2 Schoolcraft, noon

#6 Mercer County vs. #3 Yavapai, 2:30 p.m.

#5 Indian Hills vs. #4 Tyler, 5 p.m.

BRACKET PLAY

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Nov. 17

Semifinal 1: Lowest remaining seed vs. highest remaining seed, noon

Semifinal 2: Third-highest remaining seed vs. second-highest remaining seed, 3 p.m.

CHAMPIONSHIP

Saturday, Nov. 18

Final: Winner Semifinal 1 vs. Winner Semifinal 2, 3 p.m.

NJCAA Division I’s seven-time national champion Yavapai College soccer team will face a former longtime nemesis and an unfamiliar foe in Pool C when the 2017 national tournament kicks off Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 13-15, at Mountain Valley Park Amphitheater in Prescott Valley.

In the 12-team tournament, which begins by being split into four three-team pools of A, B, C and D, the Roughriders garnered the No. 3 seed. They were grouped with sixth-seeded Mercer County Community College of Trenton, New Jersey, and 10th-seeded Waubonsee CC of Sugar Grove, Illinois.

West district champion Yavapai (21-2-3 overall record) opens pool play against Great Lakes district co-champion Waubonsee (17-4-1) at 5 p.m., Nov. 13. The Roughriders receive an off day on Nov. 14 before returning to the field to battle Northeast champion Mercer County (19-3-1) at 2:30 p.m., Nov. 15.

The top finisher in each pool advances to the semifinal bracket round at noon and 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17. Semifinal winners qualify for the national championship match at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18.

In their 29-year history, the Roughriders have never played NJCAA Region 4 Waubonsee. But they’ve locked horns with DuPage (Illinois), one of Region 4’s historically better programs, five times – compiling a 3-2-0 all-time mark (1994-1996, 1998, 2001).

“Generally in the Midwest, from my experience coaching [formerly] at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, weather plays a factor – and it’s tough, grind-out soccer,” 29th-year Yavapai coach Mike Pantalione said.

Mercer County sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. Yavapai’s faced Mercer on nine occasions, including once in the regular season and eight times at nationals. Those matches were played in 1990, 1991, 1994-1997, 2002, 2003 and 2006.

Yavapai owns a 4-4-1 all-time record against Mercer, with 10 goals scored and 10 goals against. A series doesn’t get any more competitive than this one. Six of those nine matches were played for the national title, in 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2002 and 2003. The Roughriders lost in 1991, 1995 and 1996, but they won in 1997, 2002 and 2003 (3-3 overall).

“We played Mercer in some epic matches,” said Pantalione, whose 1994 team tied Mercer in regulation before winning in 11 shootout rounds, 6-5, in a national semifinal. “There’s more national tournament history there than any other two teams.”

Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email dcook@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.