The Columbia College men's soccer team made its second trip in as many years to the NAIA national tournament, traveling to Dayton, Tenn., Thursday afternoon.
The No. 23 Cougars (12-5-3) will play Bryan College (17-1-2) at 5 p.m. Saturday in the opening round of the tournament. Columbia College earned the No. 17th ranking in the tournament while Bryan is 14th.
17th seeded Columbia College (12-5-3) will play the 14th seed Bryan College (17-1-2) in Dayton, Tenn., at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20th.
"It feels really good," said senior midfielder Jimmy Herrman. "For me to go my junior and senior years is pretty special."
And Herrman and the Cougars feel they have an edge they did not have last season entering the tournament — experience.
Senior goalkeeper Ken Searles said the team is very similar to last year's squad, but as a whole they are more confident.
This confidence should be crucial because the Cougars face an opponent who dominated their conference during the year. Bryan College not only took the Appalachian Conference regular season crown, but also won the conference tournament in a 1-0 victory over Reinhardt University in the final.
Columbia College, on the other hand, finished 3rd in the American Midwest Conference and won all three of its tournament games, beating Missouri Baptist 5-0 at home and upsetting McKendree University 3-0 and Park University 4-3 in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw at the end of regulation and two overtime periods.
With every game potentially being his last, Searles intends to play with no regrets.
"We have to go out there and put everything on the field to win the game," he said.
After the season and his graduation from Columbia College, Searles wants to go home to Grenada, but also aspires to play professionally.
Herrman will go on to become a high school math teacher and said he will miss the time with his teammates.
"I'll miss hanging out with the guys," he said.