DUBUQUE, Iowa—Sometimes, it's just the way the ball bounces. The Faith Eagles men's soccer team played their best soccer of the year this weekend at the MCCC Conference Tournament in Dubuque, winning Friday's contest against Ozark Christian, but falling just short in the title game against Manhattan Christian.
It was a cold and blustery weekend in Dubuque, which saw several inches of snowfall mid-week, forcing the games to a local high school turf field. The conditions didn't seem to affect Faith too much as Chase Clark scored a hat trick to lead the Eagles to a 3-1 win on Friday.
Saturday's championship game-time temperature was in the mid 30's, with a stiff westerly wind. The Eagles faced Manhattan Christian, the sixth-ranked team in the nation, with the hopes of avenging a 5-0 loss earlier in the season.
The Thunder struck first on a goal from Angel Vasquez, who rocketed a ball through traffic into the corner of the Eagles' net.
A few minutes later, the Eagles answered with a goal from Josiah Choi to tie the game at one apiece. The score held at 1-1 through halftime and the Eagles were 45 minutes away from a conference tournament title if they could find a way to grab the lead and keep it.
The Eagles were going against the wind in the second half—a significant disadvantage that made it difficult to move the ball toward the Thunder's goal. Despite that obstacle, Chase Clark very narrowly missed a goal early in the half that would have given the Eagles the lead. The ball ricocheted off the underside of the top crossbar and bounced just out of the goal—the first of two unlucky bounces for the Eagles in the second half.
The second unlucky bounce was the dagger for the Eagles' championship aspirations. With 25 minutes to play in the game, the Thunder's Nate Awbrey ricocheted a shot off one corner post of the Eagles goal into the opposite corner for a 2-1 lead. The Eagles' defense held the rest of the way, but the offense was unable to answer, and Faith was relegated to a well-played runner-up finish.
Faith hosts the NCCAA regionals this week. The Eagles play Calvary University at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday—a team they defeated earlier this season, 3-1. If they win, they will face top-seeded Providence at 2:00 p.m. on Friday.