The Highlander men’s and women’s soccer teams competed in the Division I National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Championship last week in Kissimmee, Florida.
The men’s season ended sooner than anticipated after losing each of their two games in the first round of play in the tournament.
In the women’s championship, Houghton had one win and one tie in the first round, advancing them to the semi-finals where they ended their season, losing to Colorado Christian University, who went on to win the championship.
Going into the tournament the women were seeded 8th of 9 teams, and were placed in Pool B with the #2 and #5 seeds. “Our team played very well in the Pool Games and advanced to the Final Four by winning our pool” said Lewis.
Reflecting on last year’s tournament, Jennifer Zacchigna ’17 said, “We had a strong performance on the women’s side, making it to the final four in a tournament with a lot of talented teams.”
She continued, “We would’ve loved to make it to the championship to defend our title, but overall we were definitely happy we were able to make it as far as we did.”
According to David Lewis, Women’s Soccer Head Coach, the team lost 14 players from last year’s National Champion Team due to graduation, injury, or academic conflicts.
“This team’s focus was to improve in two levels: quality of soccer and quality of effort. They improved significantly throughout the season it showed in their post-season play. From start to finish, they represented one of the most improved teams I have coached here at Houghton,” said Lewis.
Men’s midfielder Jesse Toth ’17 said, “We didn’t do as well as we wanted as we lost both our games, but I am super proud of our team and what we accomplished this season.”
He continued, “The National Christian tournament is a very competitive series with some of the best teams around the country. Being in Florida with your best friends is very hard to complain about. While losing was disappointing, when we put it in perspective, we knew we gave it all we had and left nothing on the field.”
Toth reflected on the opportunity to have both Houghton soccer teams in Florida. This is the first time in a few years both teams have been in the tournament at the same time. “Having both teams there was a blast. Our games were spaced out perfectly so we were able to watch each other’s games in their entirety.”
He continued, “It was very cool to get to know some of the girls better. It is so different interacting with people when school is not the focus on people’s minds and you can just have genuine conversation, especially on such a long bus ride.”
While in Florida, the women’s team completed a service project organized by Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) and Feeding Children Everywhere. The men and women’s teams who made it to the semi-finals had the opportunity to participate.
“We went to the CRU headquarters to help prepare meals for families to send to Haiti. It was a great time of fellowship with the other teams and a really successful effort to help families in need,” said Zacchigna.
Although neither team brought home a national title, the opportunity for both soccer teams to compete in the tournament was a huge success as they needed both a good record and success in the region tournament in order to move to post-season play.
Toth said, “It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of the Houghton Men’s Soccer Program This team has taught me that it’s not about the result of the game. Win or lose, our main focus is glorifying God through our actions on the field. I truly believe that we accomplished that at the national tournament.”
The National Championship title was claimed by Southwestern Christian University for the men and Colorado Christian University for the women.