Morton College knew it was in for an uphill battle when it headed to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to face the defending national champion in the NJCAA Great Lakes District men’s soccer championship November 8th.
The Panthers hung tough for the first 70 minutes before Iowa Western extended its unbeaten streak to 47 with a 4-1 win to advance to the NJCAA Division tournament next week in Arizona.
Iowa Western, which improved to 21-0-1 and 46-0-1 the last two years, opened things up with two goals in a six-minute stretch to go up 3-0. Francisco Leon got the Panthers on the board with 11:37 left in the contest.
“Some of the guys came out nervous,” said Morton College men’s soccer coach Juan Franco, who notched his 200th career win this season. “They were a strong team, but this was a good experience for us. Our guys learned something new.”
Morton College finished a school-best 17-2-4 and hit the national polls with a No. 18 ranking, the result of winning the program’s first Region IV title in college history. The Panthers also won 13 or more games for the sixth straight season.
“We accomplished a lot,” Franco said. “I’m very proud of the guys. They were a really tight-knit group. We encountered some things during the season that made us stronger.”