TYLER, Texas---The first game that the Arizona Western Matadors (14-6-2 overall) played in the NJCAA Tournament marked a signficant landmark in program history but ultimately fell short to a frequent visitor in the middle of a strong run as they fell 1-0 to Illinois Central at the Pat Hartley Soccer Field Tuesday afternoon.
The Matadors were on their heels for much of the first half against the 11th seed that was fresh off a 2-1 upset of #2 Louisburg (NC) on Monday.
The Cougars played with tempo and urgency early registering 16 shots in the first half and causing the Matador defense constant durress.
Illinois Central converted an early chance when Juan Rosique split the defense on the right side and drew a shot at point blank range, finishing the chance past Duro Dragicevic for the lead.
The Matadors were only able to produce two shots in the first half in response without forcing the ICC Keeper Felix Schuster into action until late in the period.
Dragicevic, on the other hand, registered six saves to keep AWC close.
The Matadors upped the tempo in the second half and drew their lone corner nearly half way through the period.
But the Matadors best chance came with just ten minutes left when a shot hit the cross bar and the rebound opportunity was deftly grabbed by Schuster to preserve the clean sheet.
The Cougars still held possession and the edge in shots in the second half, although the Matadors had a couple of opportunities to pull even.
Dragicevic made a pair of nifty saves including a stretch in which ICC countered the Matador corner with a ferocious attack. After Erik Ibarra headed out a promising chance, Dragicevic denied the rebound attempt and allowed the Matador defense to setup.
But the Cougars proved to be the team of destiny as they advanced to Friday's Semifinal earning two days off in the process.
The Matadors will complete their season against Louisburg Wednesday at 11:30am MT/12:30pm CT in Tyler, TX. The game, along with the rest of the NJCAA Tournament can be viewed on NJCAA Championship TV for a fee.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma.