COLUMBIA – With 40 minutes and 31 seconds left in the game, there was a sense of urgency.
With 8 minutes and 34 seconds left, there was a sense of panic.
And with no time left, there were tears.
The Columbia College men’s soccer team lost 2-0 to Park University on Thursday night in the semifinals of the American Midwest Conference tournament, all but ending its chances of receiving an invitation to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament.
“I think it ends the season for us, unfortunately,” Cougars coach John Klein said. “We needed to win this game.”
The No. 20-ranked Cougars (15-3-1) gave up two second-half goals to the Pirates (8-9-0), one at 40:31 and the other at 8:34.
“I mean, they had two good shots on goal,” goalie Matt McKenna said in a noticeably somber tone. “We missed a couple of opportunities. I probably should have had the second one, but it happens sometimes.”
McKenna was fully extended on both goals that he surrendered, each of them just out of his reach as they soared past him into the right corner of the net.
On offense, the Cougars only managed four shots on goal, many of their attempts missing wide or soaring high over the net.
“We had lost two games this year, and it seems that once we have given up the first goal, those were the games that we weren’t able to step down and dig and find another gear,” Klein said. “Once we didn’t get the first goal, and they did, I think we all just felt that was not our strength.”
Columbia defeated Park 1-0 earlier in the season in a physical game.
The Cougars will find out whether they have made the NAIA tournament Sunday, but indications are that their streak of two consecutive NAIA tournament appearances will end.
“I think we’re worthy of it, but I’m not expecting it,” Klein said. "That’d be a great call, but that’d be shocking.”