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Eagles face loaded field at national tourney

By By Austin Bishop/The Meridian Star
TYLER, Texas Meridian Community College and the NJCAA National Soccer Tournament go hand-in-hand.
When the Eagles of MCC tangle with Essex (N.J.) County College today at 3 p.m. it will mark the fourth time in five years that they have made it to the big show of men's junior college soccer.
But Meridian isn't the only one of the eight schools in the tournament, which runs through Sunday and is being hosted by Tyler Junior College, that has been to this prestigious event before.
Essex won the championship in 1974, while the College of DuPage (Ill.) won in 1993 and St. Louis Meramec came away with the championship in 1972.
The team with the longest pedigree is without a doubt Yavapai (Ari.).
The Roughriders won the NJCAA championship in 1997, 1992 and 1990 and finished as runners-up four times in the 1990s (91, 94, 95, and 96).
The Eagles put a feather in their cap when they beat the visiting Roughriders 3-2 in overtime this year in just the third match of the season.
If Yavapai is seeking revenge, it will have to wait until Sunday's 1 p.m. championship game, and both the Roughriders and the Eagles will have to win two contests to get there.
MCC goes into the event as the No. 1 ranked team in the country and is riding a school-record 14-game winning streak.
Yavapai is 20-2 on the season and is ranked No. 2, but the Roughriders have posted five straight shutout wins where they have outscored their opponents 23-0.
First on the mind of the Eagles is today's matchup with 12-4 Essex, which is ranked No. 7 in the country and upset previously top-ranked Mercer County (N.J.) to reach the national tournament.
All eight of the teams in the single-elimination event are ranked among the top 12 teams in the country.
Today's first-round games have No. 12-ranked Springfield (Ill.) taking on No. 5 St. Louis Meramec; No. 4 DuPage (17-1) tangling with No. 11 Georgia Perimeter (16-5-1); and No. 3 Bryant-Stratton (N.Y.) facing Yavapai. Bryant-Stratton has an 18-2-0 record.
All four teams play again on Friday in either a loser's or winner's bracket game, with the medal contests set for Sunday.
Austin Bishop is a sports correspondent for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at bishops@mississippi.net.

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