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Yavapai Cruises into National Championship Match

TYLER, Texas -- Unfazed by a roster of international recruits and unrelenting in their attack, the Yavapai College Roughriders made getting to Sunday's national championship look easy.

The Roughriders will vie for the program's sixth national title after downing Marshalltown (Iowa) by a 3-0 final in Friday night's semifinal win at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas. They'll reunite with Georgia Perimeter, which beat YC in the 2005 national championship match.

"Just a clinic the team put on today. No other way to say it," Yavapai head coach Mike Pantalione said. "They were smart defensively, they were dangerous in the attack. They easily could have scored a few more goals.

"For a national semifinal, it was a clinic."

Pantalione notched career win No. 416 in dramatic fashion to take sole possession of the top spot on the NJCAA men's soccer all-time victory list. He moved past former St. Louis Florissant Valley coach, and fellow Hall of Famer, Pete Sorber.

But Friday night was more about celebrating the Yavapai program's 12th appearance in a national championship since 1990 than anything else.

"It's all about getting to the national championship and it's all about the 2007 team members experiencing the national championship," said the new career leader in NJCAA men's soccer victories. "That's what our focus is now. It's a players' sport."

Sophomore Rudy Duarte, who sat out all of last season due to illness, played on that 2005 club which advanced to the title game. Already the Yavapai College program's all-time career leader in assists, Duarte again came up huge in the postseason with assists on all three goals Friday night.

Justin Meram scored the opening goal, setting the tone for the match just seven minutes into the action. The freshman out of Scottsdale beat Marshalltown keeper Ken Searles with a boot into the upper left corner off a feed from Duarte.

The score stayed 1-0 for most of the rest of the match. Irving Garcia and Francis Khamis later beat Searles in the final 17 minutes of regulation.

Yavapai, with a roster of homegrown products, including nine from Arizona, seemed undaunted by Marshalltown, which was making its national tournament debut in 2007 behind the strength of 21 foreign-born players.

"They just played Yavapai soccer," Pantalione said. "They moved the ball around nicely. Good solid organized defense, and they took advantage of the scoring opportunities."

The offense has been remarkably strong, scoring at least three goals in five of the team's past six matches. But the defense, which posted its 10th shutout of 2007, has made the real difference since juggling the lineup two weeks ago.

After playing nearly 50 matches at the attacking mid, Vincent Fimbrez moved to defensive mid. Denton Brown made the shift from defensive mid to stopper, Chris Hunter moved from stopper to sweeper, and Camilo Valencia completed the back five's overhaul by going from sweeper to left back.

Evan McNiel has kept his post at right back. All have fronted freshman goalkeeper Sam Hayden who posted his second consecutive shutout at the national tournament.

The Roughriders and Georgia Perimeter both have an off day Saturday. The team will meet for a "very light workout," says Pantalione, at 1 o'clock; the same time as Sunday's championship kickoff. The workout will consist of little more than jogging and stretching.

Then the gameplan is simple enough until Sunday.

"Pray," chuckled Pantalione. "And then show up at 1 o'clock for kickoff."

 

PHOTO courtesy of Michelle Morse.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The Roughriders started the celebration after Irving Garcia (9) scored the team's second goal Friday night in the 73rd minute.

-- Article from The Daily Courier. Read it on-line at http://www.dcourier.com.

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