2008 National Championship Recap

2008 NJCAA Division III National Runners Up!
The Triton College men’s soccer team had their sights set on the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III championship November 9 in Dallas, Texas vs. Herkimer Community College (NY). With 10 minutes to play, the Trojans were getting closer to the finish line, clinging to a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, the Generals staged a stunning comeback with two goals in the final eight minutes to hand Triton a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat.

The Trojans end the season with a 14-5 record and the second-place finish is the best showing ever for a Triton team at the national tournament. In the five previous tournament appearances, the Trojans best finish was fourth place in 1988.

“The guys are obviously disappointed with the result,” Triton head coach Tom Cholewa said. “But I thought the team presented themselves in a professional and mature way. They’ve accepted the fact that the best team won and can walk away knowing they have achieved something that no other Triton soccer team has done before by finishing second in the nation.”

With 19 minutes left in the first half, the Trojans struck first when Herkimer failed to clear a cross in the box that Gabe Chavez (Riverside-Brookfield) drove toward the far post past Generals goalkeeper James Taber.

As the seconds ticked off the clock, Triton substituted frequently and was on the defensive in attempting to hold on to the lead. But Herkimer (20-3) showed why they entered the tournament ranked number one in the nation with an aggressive fury that the Trojans held off until Joeski Williams evened the contest with eight minutes left.

“We were able to sustain their pressure for the most part,” Cholewa said. “But we had one lapse of concentration and they took advantage with the equalizer.”

Triton appeared to have retaken the lead minutes later on a Chris Camie (Leyden) header but Taber made a tremendous save keeping the match tied.

Then off the counter-attack the Generals, Corey Phillips received a pass inside the goalie box and made a nice move around Jose Gonzalez, (Leyden) who lost his footing. This put Phillips one-on-one with Trojan goalkeeper Ben Gomez (Fenton) who had no chance as Phillips blasted the decisive goal with 2:45 left in the second half.

“We were hanging on for our lives and it was just a matter of time,” Cholewa said. “Herkime was just faster, stronger and deeper and give them credit for the way they played.”

Four Triton players were All-Tournament Team selections: Gomez, Chavez, Rodrigo Avolos (Mexico) and David Rodriguez (Larkin).

The Trojans advanced to the NJCAA Division III championship game with a 1-0 win over Manchester Community College (CT) in a national semifinal on Nov. 8.

Avolos scored the lone goal with 24 minutes to play in the first half off a beautifully timed header from Eric Herrera (St. Joseph) that found the top right corner of the net. Gomez would make the Avolos goal stand up with several great saves down the stretch. For the game, Gomez made 11 stops in earning his sixth shutout of the season.

2008 District II Champions!
The Triton College men's soccer team clinched a spot in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III Tournament after its 3-0 win over Madison Area Technical College Nov. 1 in the District II Finals in Madison, WI.

The Trojans (13-4) will be making their first national tourney appearance since 1997. The four-team tournament will be held Nov. 8 and 9 in Dallas, Texas. The Trojans have already guaranteed their best placing ever, surpassing the 1988 squads fourth place finish at nationals.

Triton drew the four-seed at the national tournament and will face top-seeded Manchester Community College (CT) in the first semifinal match, Saturday, Nov. 8 at Noon. The Cougars are 18-2 and punched their ticket to Texas by defeating previously unbeaten Suffolk County Community College (NY) 3-1 on penalty kicks. Manchester was ranked fourth in the nation in the latest Division III poll, while the Trojans received their first nationally ranking of the season at 15th.

The winner will play for the National Championship Sunday, Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m. against the winner of the other semifinal match between Herkimer County Community College (NY) and County College of Morris (NJ).

“It’s a great accomplishment for Triton,” Trojan head coach Tom Cholewa said. “I hope this will serve as a positive for both the school and the community. Making it to the Final Four says a lot about our athletic department and Triton overall.”

The Trojans got on the board in the 27th minute when Jamie Pacheco (Leyden) scored off a cross from Aaron Mendez (Leyden) that deflected in the goal. Mendez would give Triton a 2-0 lead on a penalty kick early in the second half. Pacheco would then put the game away with his second goal off an assist from Jacek Boloz (Prosser) in the 73rd minute.

Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Gomez (Fenton) made five saves in registering his fifth shutout of the season.

“We established a rhythm in the midfield and passed the ball well,” Cholewa said. “This game showed our depth and the guys off the bench stepped up big.”

Triton got to the District II Final by defeating defending National Champions, Richland College (Dallas, TX) 2-1 in a shootout on Oct. 31.

The Trojans grabbed the lead 55 minutes into the match on a quick throw in by Jose Gonzalez (Leyden) to Miguel Cabrales, (Gage Park) who broke loose in the penalty box and scored on a tight angle from the right side.

Richland would tie the game 15 minutes later and kept Triton on the defensive. However, 90 physical minutes and overtime could not determine a winner as the match went into a shootout.

But the Trojans prevailed in the shootout 4-2 as Eric Herrera (St. Joseph), David Rodriguez (Larkin), Alen Ejupovic (Foreman) and Rodrigo Avolos (Mexico) all found the back of the net.

“One of our goals was to get to the Final Four and I give the guys a lot of credit,” Cholewa said. “I know we’ll be focused and ready to play no matter who our opponent is and we’ll see what happens.”

2008 Region IV Champions!
The Triton College men's soccer team won the Region IV Division III Championship for the first time in 11 years following a thrilling 1-0 overtime win over Joliet Junior College Saturday, Oct. 25 in Buffalo Grove.

Aaron Mendez found David Rodriguez who got past a Joliet defender who slipped and broke free to bury the game-winning goal from 20-yards out.

"I give the guys a lot of credit," first-year head coach Tom Cholewa, who also received Region IV Coach of the Year honors said. "They put in the effort and sacrificed a lot of things to get Triton back to winning the title."

Photos from the 2008 NJCAA Championship in Dallas, Texas