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Eagles advance in nationals

By By Austin Bishop/The Meridian Star
TYLER, Texas In the first half, Meridian Community College goalie Ryan Sims got knocked silly.
In the second half, he made Essex (N.J.) County College look silly as he came up with big stop after big stop to lead top-ranked MCC to a 4-1 first-round win in the NJCAA 2000 Division I Men's Soccer Tournament.
Sims' strength paid off midway through the first half, when he landed on his back after having his legs cut out from under him when he was fouled going high for a cross on a corner kick.
The win pushed MCC into the eight-team tournament's second round against Springfield College of Illinois today at 5 p.m. Springfield defeated St. Louis Community College-Meramec 3-1 in its first-round game.
Among the biggest of Sims' outstanding plays came with the Eagles leading 1-0 and just over 29 minutes to play. The Wolverines took consecutive shots just 10 seconds apart, but Sims turned them both away. Then nine minutes later MCC scored again to make it 2-0.
The game was scoreless at the half, with Essex controlling the first 10 minutes of the game, before the Eagles began to settle in.
Clements said he was pleased overall with his team's effort, but admitted he was concerned about Essex's size and athletic ability.
MCC's first goal came on a nice play by sophomore striker Damani Ralph five minutes into the second half.
Meridian made it 2-0 on a nice play with 20:16 left in the game, when Ralph took the ball toward the right corner, then crossed the ball onto the waiting foot of Andrew McLeod who put it past the Essex goalie.
The Wolverines, came back to score less than a minute later, when Paul Daccobert knocked home a loose ball in front of the goal.
MCC had three strong scoring attempts in a four-minute span, but could not convert any of them. The Eagles finally got some breathing room when Kahreem Cooke converted a penalty kick with 6:34 to play in the match.
Ralph, MCC's all-time leading scorer, added the final goal with 2:19 left in the game off a pass from Cooke.
Meridian, ranked No. 1 in the country by the NJCAA, moved to 22-1 on the season with the win and stretched its school-record winning streak to 15.
Austin Bishop is a sports correspondent for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at