The John Brown University men’s and women’s soccer programs both ended their regular season as Southern Athletic Conference champions, and will continue on to play in the conference tournament. The women’s team was undefeated in their conference, and the men’s team ended 7-1-1.
“We had all of the pieces–the players, the leadership, the coaching, the common goal,” senior Hannah Poor said about the women’s team. “Winning the championship game is special because we’ve proven what we knew all along.” The women’s team played Southwestern Assemblies of God University for their last regular season conference game, winning 5-1. The Golden Eagles competed without the help of their two injured goalkeepers, leaving the rest of the team to fill in for their missing members. Senior Sarah Abbott said she credits the JBU conference title to the adaptability of her team.
“Each player has put in the time and effort to get better,” Abbott said. “That shows in the flow of our play.” The women’s team played Wayland Baptist on November 4 in the first round of the conference championship and won big with the final score of 7-0. The Golden Eagles are the number one seed in the tournament, which Poor said could actually be a disadvantage as every other team will be especially motivated to beat them.
“Nothing is going to be handed to us in this tournament,” Poor said. “We’ve got to be prepared to play our best soccer yet.”
The men’s soccer team enters the conference tournament ranked second and looking to take home their first ever conference championship win.
“We focused a lot this year on our style of play,” Scott Marksberry, the men’s soccer head coach, said. “In a lot of our games we won big because [our] style is just really overwhelming.” The men’s team is young this year, with only five of their 26 members being juniors or seniors. Junior men’s player Collin Smith said this leaves the team with ample opportunity for continued growth over the next two to three years.
“Now that’s kind of the standard: to win conference,” Smith said. Going into the conference tournament, Smith said the team will need to keep their composure and buy into the Golden Eagle style of play they have been practicing all year.
“No matter who we’re playing we want to play our soccer, whether it’s the best team in the country or one of the worst teams in our conference,” he said. The men’s team was consistently ranked nationally this year, one week climbing all the way to the number 12 spot. Along with the women’s team, they have a high chance of going to Nationals this year. The key to getting there?
“Mental toughness,” Smith said. “It’s not going to be soccer like we’re used to. It’s gonna be nasty and a fight.”
The JBU men’s Soccer team plays Texas Wesleyan in the first round of the conference tournament on November 5. If they win, they will continue on to play in the semifinals on November 8 and then the championship game on November 12. The women’s team will play in the semifinal game on November 7 and if they win will continue to the championship game on November 11.