Clarksville, Ark.-The Eagles will enter the American Southwest Conference Championship Tournament as the No. 5 seed in Tyler, Texas, and play Mississippi College (11-3-3, 8-3-2) Friday at 11:00 a.m.
UT-Tyler will host the six-team tournament held November 7-9 at Citizens First Bank-Perkins Soccer Complex. The winner of the Ozarks-Mississippi College match will advance to play UT-Tyler on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. The Eagles and Choctaws finished tied for fourth in the ASC standings. The Choctaws defeated Ozarks 2-0 September 25 in Clarksville to receive the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Ozarks also faced the Choctaws last season in the semi-finals of the ASC tournament with the Eagles taking a 2-1 victory. Mississippi College is led by Phillip Buffington who has scored 18 goals this season. They have six shutouts.
“Mississippi College is always tough,” said head coach Dave De Hart. “They are a fiery team and always play hard. They have a great goal scorer in Buffington. I’m sure they will be ready to go. They are a real fine team.”
The 2008 season was one of the most evenly contested seasons in recent years. Only two conference wins separated UT-Tyler and Texas Lutheran, the No. 6 seeded team.
“Anyone can beat anyone and I think that is what makes a good conference,” said De Hart. “It makes it stressful on the coaches and the teams, but it provides us strong competition. The tournament is wide-open, more so than any other year. The outcome of any game will not be a surprise to me. I don’t see a clear cut favorite in any match.”
Junior forward Matt Engelman is the team’s leading scorer (8 goals, 7 assists). Freshman forward Guido Salas follows with 6 goals and 7 assists. Seven others have at least 3 goals. Ozarks has not given up more than two goals in a match this season and have recorded 7 shutouts.
“We score goals by committee,” said De Hart. “We have had a number of different players come through with goals at different times, and that is a nice thing. Hopefully, that will continue into the playoffs. Defensively, we work on a team defense and try to play tenacious out there. Anytime you can be tough defensively you will stay in games. The playoffs are a brand new season. Now is when the second season starts. The season is preparation for the playoffs.”.
It is the ninth straight season head coach Dave De Hart has had his team in ASC post-season play. Only the top 6 teams qualify for the playoffs. Five of the eight years his teams have made it to the championship match. The 2003 team won the title and advanced to the NCAA III tournament. Next weekend’s tournament winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA III tournament.
Live audio and live stats for all tournament matches will be available.
Friday, Nov. 7 – No. 4 seed (Mississippi College) vs No. 5 seed (Ozarks) – 11:00 a.m.
Friday, Nov. 7 – No. 3 seed (UT-Dallas) vs No. 6 seed (Texas Lutheran) – 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 8 - Winner of game one vs No 1 seed (UT-Tyler) – 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 8 - Winner of game two vs No. 2 seed (Hardin-Simmons) – 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 9 – (Championship match) – 1:00 p.m.