The Mesa Community College men’s soccer team will head to the playoffs for the first time since 2019, and the seventh time since 2010.
At the beginning of the season, head coach Brian Ronan and the team looked to show that their 4-9-1 record last season was just a blip in their program’s success.
This season, the team eclipsed 12 wins, the most in program history since 2003, and earned a winning percentage of .781%, the highest since 2001. Their overall record on the season was 12-3-1, with a conference record of 7-2-1.
The 2001 team was a great one, and Ronan has first hand experience with what that team was like, as he actually played for the Thunderbirds at the time.
One thing about the current team that Ronan loves is they understand the best way to win is to have a team-first mentality.
Leading goal scorers on other teams in the playoffs, like Pima Community College and Phoenix College, have six more goals than the next highest goal scorer on the team.
When it comes to MCC everyone gets in the action as their leading scorer, Adnan Elaqad, has only two more goals than the next player. In total, 18 different players have snuck one past an opposing keeper.
“We don’t have anybody statistically that’s dominant on our team,” said Ronan, “We’re evenly spread, we’ve had multiple players score three to four goals in a season, and they scored them when we needed their offensive output.”
In MCC’s final game of the season, the team shutout Gateway Community College by a score of 11-0, which is impressive in of itself.
The more impressive takeaway from the game was that 10 of the 11 goals scored were assisted.
It seems fitting that MCC will take on Pima in the semi-final round after the Thunderbirds upset the Aztecs earlier this season, who were ranked No.1 in the country at the time.
Even though Ronan understands the implications of the game, his message to the players has been to continue to play the game the same way that got them to the playoffs.
“You got to play loose and play aggressive,” said Ronan, “You got to come in there and not worry about who the opponent is. We have a certain swagger and a lot of it has to do with going to the ball aggressively.”
Pima comes into the playoffs with a 9-2-2 overall record, while having a 6-2-2 record in conference play.
In Pima’s last six games, they have gone 3-2-1, while MCC has gone 5-1 in their last six,winning their last four.
The game will be played at home for the Thunderbirds, a big advantage in the eyes of Ronan, who is relieved the team will not have to make the nearly two hour drive to Tucson in order to face the Aztecs.
“When you have to travel for a playoff game you sit on a bus for two hours and you’re nervous,” said Ronan, “your legs get a little tired, it throws you off the routine you’re used to and you have to just get into a really intense playoff atmosphere at an away stadium, that alone is something that I’m glad we’re avoiding.”
The semi-final playoff game will be held at John D. Riggs Stadium on Oct. 25 with a kickoff of 6:00 p.m.
This story was edited on 10/25/2022 to correct an error made at the time of publication.