The Marshalltown Community College soccer team capped their record setting season with a win and a shootout loss at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship. These marks placed them with a fifth place finish at the tournament, the second highest in program history.
The Tigers finished the year 18-2-1 with their only losses coming in their opening game of the conference season against Iowa Central and in a shootout at the National Championship against Eastern Florida State College. The tie came against Morton College in the District Championship which resulted in shootouts, with the Tigers defeating Morton in order to reach the National Tournament. The team would come up short in the second shootout of the season, narrowly missing a chance to advance into the semifinal round at the National Championship.
"I am extremely proud of what this group of young men have accomplished this season. The coaching staff felt we had the right personnel as we were going through the recruiting season, however it was especially satisfying seeing how they all welcomed and supported each other to create a very cohesive group, which made the difference when talent was matched by other teams," Head Coach Rafael Martinez reflected.
During the course of the season, the Tigers saw great success on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The squad ended with the distinction of having the best team defense statistically in the nation with a 0.51 goals against average. They were second only to the National Champion, Pima Community College, in shutouts with 14. Offensively the team held their own finishing in the top ten nationally with 83 goals on the season, averaging 3.95 goals per game. The Tigers rose to a program best #2 ranking in the NJCAA, #1 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America during the week of October 16th. They would finish the season ranked #5 in both polls.
Individually, the Tigers amassed a good deal of post season hardware including three All-Americans, ICCAC Player of the Year, ICCAC Coach of the Year, and 10 All-Region Selections. Sophomores Rafael Vacas and Joel Serrano earned NJCAA All-American nods, on the first and third teams respectively. Sophomore Rafael Ramos was named to the NSCAA All-America 1st Team as well. Vacas was tabbed as the best player in the ICCAC, while Martinez shared the Coach of the Year distinction with Ben MacRae from Iowa Lakes. On the All-Region 1st team were the aforementioned players along with sophomore Leonardo Tomasi. The Tigers placed four people on the All-Region 2nd team: sophomore Manoel dos Passos, and freshmen Kazuki Kimura, Gustavo Leal, and Matheus Pereira. Rounding out the All-Region selections were freshmen defenders Aleix Viladot and Cesar Mont.
"I have to especially congratulate our sophomores, who had to go through a challenging environment last year, and yet they decided to stay for their second year, showing great commitment to the program. I think back at those meetings with them on November of 2017, when many of them looked at my eyes and stated they wanted to win with Marshalltown. Their believe turned into preparation and later into action to make possible this year's success. We took the approach that Destiny was in our hands, and it required us to give our best day after day, and I feel this was present all the way until the end," Martinez stated.
The Tiger successful season reaches beyond the pitch as they epitomized what the MCC Athletic Department emphasizes, hard work, community, dedication, and success in the classroom. The mindset of doing things the correct way and playing for something more than yourself was evident in the first week the soccer team was here in their tornado relief and recovery efforts. They assist the Boy Scouts of America in teaching soccer to the youth of Marshalltown. The team excels in the classroom as well.
Reflecting on the season, Martinez offered these words, "There is a lot of people who have supported our players and our program for this and years past, and I hope they felt proud of how they have contributed to our success this season. We are fully aware that we don't play only for ourselves, but also for our institution and our community, and there is no bigger success than feeling that we represented them well."