In a battle of two teams that entered the national tournament with at-large bids, third-seeded Iowa Western defeated seventh-seeded Arizona Western 2-0 for the NJCAA national title in Tyler, Texas.
After coming up one win shy of a championship last season as the national runner-up, coach Mike Brown and the Reivers finish the job and bring home the program’s second-ever national title.
“I’m so proud of the guys,” Brown said. “I’m especially happy for our sophomores who had to go through that loss last season. That’s a hard task, especially when you don’t have an offseason to work in to bounce back. Our new season started just a month and a half later after that loss. So, we had to mentally bounce back right away.”
Iowa Western’s first national title came in 2013 when Brown was an assistant coach for the Reivers at that time.
The Reivers struck first as they took advantage of a bad pass to net a 13th-minute goal by Giorgio Probo to put the Reivers up 1-0, which is how the score would remain up until the halftime break.
The Matadors looked to be on the brink of tying the game in the 49th minute as Arizona Western’s Lachlan Brooks made a move to get by Reiver goalkeeper Yuta Ishizuka, but Reiver defenseman Moise Bombito came to the rescue at the last second to get in the way of Brook’s point-blank shot and deflect the ball out of bounds to save Iowa Western’s 1-0 lead.
“That was such a huge play in this game,” Brown said. “Those plays are what win you championships. That’s the play that will increase toughness, increase selflessness, and resilience. The guys did this, I didn’t do anything. These guys gave a heck of an effort and I’m very proud of them.”
The teams again battled back and forth until Iowa Western found a breakthrough with Ibrahim Conde scoring a 78th-minute goal to give the Reivers the insurance marker and a 2-0 lead. It was at this point the Reivers could feel it in the air, and sure enough 12 minutes later when the clocks showed all zeros the Reivers officially claimed the national title.
“That second goal was big,” Brown said. “I’m happy for them, the main thing I told the guys now is to be successful past this. That means being good fathers and good husbands down the road and seeing them continue to succeed.
“So many times I see people win national championships and that ends up being the end all and be all. We always want more for our guys and now see them go off to the next place and succeed. That’s the most important thing to me now. That will tell me if we, the coaches, did our job well.”
The Reivers end their banner season with a final record of 19-1-1.
Arizona Western (21-1-0) 0 0 — 0
Iowa Western (19-1-1) 1 1 — 2