Columbia College soccer coach John Klein has ran into the age-old problem of not being able to be in two places at once.
He’s coached the men’s and women’s teams to hardware-earning seasons this year, leading both to American Midwest Conference regular season and tournament titles along with separate NAIA National Tournament berths. But in doing so, he inadvertently got himself into a pickle.
After Monday’s selection show revealed where each CC team was drawn to for opening round play, a conundrum formed. The women were drawn to Pulaski, Tennessee, and will play Taylor (Ind.) at 1 p.m. Friday for the chance to play fifth-seeded hosts Martin Methodist at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Back in Columbia, the second-seeded men earned the right to host their opening round game. They’ll have Friday off as they get to scout the match between Dalton State (Ga.) and Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) on their home pitch, and the winner will play the Cougars at 5 p.m. Saturday at R. Marvin Owens Field.
So, with two matches in two days in two different states, what’s Klein going to do? Lots and lots of driving, along with remotely coaching if necessary.
Following a practice with the men’s team Thursday afternoon, Klein said he’ll make the seven and a half hour drive from Columbia to Pulaski and meet with the women for their match Friday. Regardless of the result, Klein will do the drive all over again immediately after the women’s match for a grand total of 15 hours of driving in about a 36-hour window.
Once back in Columbia, he said he’ll watch the CC-Martin Methodist women’s game Saturday (if necessary) on live stream and will communicate tactical changes with assistant coach Meg Goddard, who’ll still be in Tennessee. All of this, and Klein will still be ready to go later that afternoon for the men’s game.
It’ll be a whirlwind of a few days for Klein, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s all worth it,” Klein said. “I would’ve loved for it to have been ... a Central Methodist draw, you know, or maybe a Benedictine (Kan.) or something. But either way, this isn’t a bad draw. So I’m going to go for it and see what we can do.”
This isn’t an unprecedented circumstance for Klein. For the past five seasons, he’s led both the men’s and women’s teams to the concurrent NAIA National Tournament appearances, so he’s had situations like this weekend’s before.
The trick has been to have concurrent deep tournament runs, as well. The men reached the quarterfinal round in 2015 and 2017, while the women did so in 2016. Klein thinks there’s a solid chance both programs will be able to do so this year.
The men are 20-0 to start the season and are favored on seeding in their opening round draw, while the women haven’t lost in 15 games and could set themselves up for a rematch against Martin Methodist on Saturday. The Redhawks defeated the Cougars 2-0 in CC’s season opener in Columbia on Aug. 23, a game which CC outshot MMC 17-16.
“We certainly can’t take anything for granted,” Klein said. “Unfortunate for the girls, they’ve got to win two games, guys just have to win one game. If we beat Taylor, we’ve already seen (Martin Methodist) and then we do get to watch the two men’s teams play on our field the night before. So we’ll have a pretty good feeling for what we’re coming up against.”