The Trappers, 17-6 heading to the national tournament in Albany, Ga., were seeded 10th in the 12-school tournament field. Louisburg is the No. 3 seed and also sports the No. 3 ranking nationally in the final regular-season men’s soccer poll. The Hurricanes bring an 18-0 record into the national tournament.
“You look at Louisburg, and their last two seasons have been tremendous,” said Trapper head coach Rob Hill, who will take a roster of 21 freshmen and four sophomores into the tournament. “They’ve had some good results. They’ve won a lot of their games by three or more goals, so obviously they’re an attacking threat and dangerous going forward, so we’ll need to be aware of that.”
Hill acknowledges the national tournament presents a challenge for scouting and game planning.
“The short turnaround of knowing who you play until you’re actually there playing them makes it a challenge,” said Hill. “You don’t have time to get any film unless it’s online, so you’re really relying on reports and the eyes of other people.”
Also in the Trappers’ pool will be the No. 8 team in the nation, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The Surge, out of Cincinnati, Ohio, are 17-5-1 heading to nationals. The Trappers and Surge play at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, meaning Northwest will face just 18 hours of recovery time between the end of their Monday match and kickoff of Tuesday’s contest. The Trappers are off Wednesday and Thursday.
“We’ve had that time schedule during the regular season, so we’ve seen it before,” Hill said. “Still, you look at the district tournament where we only used two subs against Yavapai, and you could see there was some fatigue the second day against Western Wyoming.”
Hill noted he would stress hydration and recovery efforts to get the team as ready as possible for Tuesday’s second game.
“We’ll be extremely vigilant in how we recover between games,” said Hill. “We’ll really monitor and focus on that.”
Teams receive three points for a win at the national tournament. Two points are awarded for a shoot-out victory. The team with the highest point total after Wednesday’s games in the Trappers’ three-team pool will advance to next Friday’s semifinals to face the winner of one of the tournament’s three other pools. Should two or more teams be tied on points in pool play, goal differential will be used to determine the team that advances.
Semifinal teams will be ranked based on their tournament seeding with the highest-seeded semifinalist playing the lowest-seeded semifinalist in one Friday contest. The second and third-seeded semifinal teams will play in the other Friday game. The national championship game takes place Saturday, Nov. 17.
“This is a great opportunity and experience for our team. For some of these guys, it might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing they can tell their grandkids about years from now,” Hill said. “Like we’ve been telling them, it’s going to come down to desire and competitiveness. It’s still junior college soccer. We’re not going there to play Manchester United or something. The talent will be comparable to what we saw against Yavapai. We just need to stay focused on each 90 minutes and not get caught looking ahead or thinking about where we are.”
Other schools qualifying for the 2012 national championship tournament are Darton State College (Ga.), Monroe (N.Y.), Tyler (Texas), Jefferson (Mo.), Illinois Central, Western Texas, Marshalltown (Iowa), Oakton (Ill.) and Western Wyoming.
The Trappers will leave for Georgia on Thursday or Friday. The team will have a workout in Albany before participating in the opening ceremony for the national championship tournament on Sunday.
The weather could play a role, calling for temperatures near 80 for their opening game against Louisburg — quite a contrast from the projected snowfall the team leaves behind here in Wyoming. Early forecasts for Tuesday’s game against Cincinnati State are calling for a strong chance of rain.
Northwest College will carry its best ranking of the season with it to Georgia. Buoyed by its late-season surge of victories, the Trappers were ranked 18th nationally in this week’s NJCAA men’s soccer poll. It marks Northwest College’s first appearance in the top 20 since the opening week of the season.
“We’ve grown so much from this experience with the regional and then the district tournament,” said Hill. “You can definitely see the result of hard work. We’ve got the talent and the technical ability. I just hope we can keep that mentality at the national tournament.”
The Trappers are one of three Region IX teams ranked in this week’s top 20. Laramie County and Otero hold down the 19th and 20th spots, respectively, in the poll. District runner-up Western Wyoming is also receiving votes in the poll.
The complete final regular season NJCAA men’s soccer poll:
1. Darton State 17-0, 2. Monroe 16-0-1, 3. Louisburg 18-0, 4. Tyler 16-3-1, 5. Yavapai 21-3, 6. Iowa Western 17-1-1, 7. Barton 16-3-1, 8. Cincinnati State Tech 17-5-1, 9. Jefferson 14-5-1, 10. Illinois Central 15-3-1, 11. Western Texas 11-2, 12. Marshalltown 13-5-2, 13. Schoolcraft 15-3-1, 14. Arizona Western 19-3, 15. Oakton 14-2-1, 16. Monroe College 10-3-1, 17. South Georgia 12-3, 18. NORTHWEST 17-6, 19. Laramie County 13-4-1, 20. Otero 15-3-2.
Receiving votes: CCBC-Essex, Western Wyoming, Iowa Central, San Jacinto-South, ASA, Spartanburg Methodist, Prairie State, Lincoln, Dean, Owens, MCC-Maple Woods.