Pima Community College men’s soccer coach Dave Cosgrove didn’t expect his team to be here. A lot was lost from a season ago, one heartbreakingly cut short by a poor decision by the ACCAC.
After nearly 20 years at Pima – with arguably better teams – the 2017 team won Pima’s first conference title. And, he never thought it would go 15 straight games without losing. It’s a school record.
“Surprising and refreshing” is how he put it. And, well, a “feel good” story that has still time to make it an even a better story.
“This team just seems to have a knack to play very well in big games. In games they have to win, they find a way to win,” said Cosgrove. “That’s a real quality that they’ve had their whole lives. They get the job done when their backs are against the wall.”
The wall doesn’t get any bigger this week as it plays in the NJCAA tournament in Prescott Valley. Pima (17-4-3) begins pool play on Tuesday.
The tournament comes at perfect time for Pima, which enters as the No. 8 seed.
“I’m just starting to trust this team in big games because they raise their level and get the job done,” Cosgrove said.
The losses Pima has had were ones, Cosgrove said, it could have afforded to lose. Pima goes into the tournament after losing to Yavapai in the regional finals. Yavapai is said to be the hottest team in the country.
And yet, Pima has held tough with Yavapai all season.
“Sometimes it’s not pretty and sometimes it’s not overwhelming, but they get it and get the job done,” Cosgrove said. “But, we can’t afford to have an off day.”
Not in the big tournament, one it was denied a year ago when the ACCAC suspended Pima after an altercation with Phoenix College. At the time, Pima was the No. 1 team in the west and one of the favorites to win a national title. A half a year later, Pima won its appeal that it did not initiate the fight and was wrongly accused.
Is this year’s success vindication for what happened?
“We’ve never really addressed it,” Cosgrove said. “We only have five or six kids back from last year and only four or five were a big part of last year. (But) a lot these kids are aware of last year and the disappointment of it being taken away from us unfairly.”
As for Cosgrove, a staple on the Tucson soccer fields, might never forget the pain of last year’s decision.
“I’ll never get over what happened,” he said. “I’ll be 90 years old and still be disappointed.”
He spoke of his players never having the opportunity to getting to be seen by top-level coaches and never having the experience of the event.
“They earned the right to be there,” Cosgrove.
But, as he said, this year is a different team, save for a few. He said his team lost one of the team’s best freshmen to a Div. II team early, lost a bunch of sophomores from a season ago and there have been a number of injuries.
This team has clearly exceeded his expectations.
“That’s not to discount their abilities,” he said. “But in August, if you told me we’d be going to the national tournament I would have never believed it. But to the kid’s credit, they got results.
“That’s what they do, they get results. Now, I trust them … every time they step on the field.”