Pioneers Prepare for Nationals
AACC women's soccer team heads to Kansas next week.
In a stunning shutout, the AACC Women's Soccer team defeated Cape Fear 2-0 at their home field in North Carolina and advanced to the National Championships in Topeka, KS, to be held November 18th-21st.
For the third time in six years, the Pioneers will make an appearance at the Junior College National Championship tournament and take their place among the eight best teams in the country. The AACC team has made it to nationals twice before under Coach Jim Griffiths' leadership and is looking forward to once again going head to head with teams and players from all over the U.S.
"The last time we went out, in 2008, we upset the #3 seed and we were #8," said Griffiths of his team's last nationals performance. "There is definitely a precedent of us going out there and playing well, so hopefully it will carry over."
The squad will most likely enter the tournament seeded at #8 again this time, and will then be squaring off against the defending champions, who are seeded at the #1 spot.
"They have 10 international players from all over… Jamaica, Trinidad, Australia, Ireland, England," lamented Griffiths. "We have girls from Calvert County. They have 28 on their roster and we have 16."
Though he admits it will be a tough battle, Griffiths said he believes his team can rise to the challenge.
"I think they'll do well if they're focused on the game and not on the trip," said Griffiths. "They have to understand why we're going, that it's a chance to represent the college, to show that they do have a competitive team. The better we play as a team, the better they're going to show as individuals."
The annual event is understood to be a holy ground for recruiting hopefuls, as many four-year college scouts make appearances throughout the tournament.
"That is a big component of going," said Griffiths. "It is a chance to be recruited."
In preparation for the tournament, Coach Griffiths said that his team needs to focus on getting physically fit in addition to becoming mentally ready for the challenging tournament that lies ahead.
"When you play Thursday, the first day, you want to make sure that you have your girls are as close to 100% healthy as you can," said Griffiths. "We've got to get healthy, that's the number one thing."
On the practice field, there is an air of excitement interspersed with unease as none of the players on this year's squad have ever been to the National Championship before.
"I think they are apprehensive," said Griffiths. "They realize that there is going to be a lot of talent out there."
A win, place or show is not entirely out of the question, though. With the hard work and dedication of all the players on the squad, the Pioneers still stand a chance.
"They just need to focus on the reason they're there," explained Griffiths. "Enjoy the other stuff, but still be focused on the important things."
The Pioneers will head to Topeka, KS, next week to square off tournament-style against seven other teams from across the country for the title of National Champion. More information can be found at http://www.visittopeka.us/.