COLUMBIA — Nikola Velickovic still has scars from the last time the Columbia College soccer team played against Park University.
One of the scars, on the right side of his ribcage, is about five inches long. It remains from when Velickovic was kicked by one of the Pirates in the Cougars' 1-0 victory against the visiting Pirates on Oct. 21.
After a first-round bye, the Cougars are set to play the Pirates again in the second round of the American Midwest Conference tournament.
The first game against Park was a physical struggle. Columbia College coach John Klein said he expects another tough game Tuesday. The Cougars have defeated Park in the tournament final for the past two years. This time, a loss will likely end the season for either team.
"We know it's going to be tough," Velickovic said. "They are going to want it more than they did last time."
Velickovic said he will have to control his emotions. In the last game against Park, the Cougars' defender said the Pirates had a forward follow him all around the field. Velickovic said he expects the Pirates to try to get under his skin again Tuesday, but he is ready to handle it.
"I would never do something stupid," Velickovic said. "Our whole season depends on it."
Velickovic and the Cougars said they are confident headed into the rematch, but they aren't taking anything for granted. Despite Columbia College's 15-2-1 regular season — the program's highest winning percentage yet — Klein said the team is not expecting to receive an at-large bid to the national tournament.
"We need to approach it like we have to win," Klein said. "We're kind of a bubble team."
The game is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Tuesday at R. Marvin Owens Soccer Field. Klein said that because of a rainy forecast, the game could be postponed. He said the decision would be made by 1 p.m. Tuesday.