Thunderucks national champs

Bring out the confetti, lots of Gatorade and Queen’s greatest hits: Richland’s men’s soccer team has brought home the NJCAA Division III National Championship for the sixth time. It has been nine years since Richland’s men’s soccer has seen the national crown. This season was magisterial for the Thunderducks. 

Players from different countries, each with his own artistry, became one very quickly with tremendous performances all season. 

Finishing in third place last year against Camden County College, the Thunderducks went out on top as champions this year against the same squad. The T-Ducks started the season at 9-0 before losing two straight to Tyler and San Jacinto, then came back to win the remaining games of the regular season. 

In the 16 games that the T-Ducks won, eight were shutouts and their opponents never scored more than two goals. Well-balanced indeed, these guys were powerful on both ends of the field. Richland headed to Chicagoland for the districts and scored a combined total of seven goals to win the District C Championship.

On the return home to Dallas, the Thunderducks and head coach Sean Worley had just one thing in mind... winning the national title. These men were confident and ready to represent Richland before the rest of the country in the National Championship Series in Herkimer, N.Y. 

As the top seed and the only school that wasn’t from the Northeast, Richland players knew what was ahead of them. More importantly, the other seven schools saw fear … in themselves. With a three-goal shutout against Bergen College, in the quarterfinals and another three-goal shutout against Genesee College, in the semis, the Thunderducks made it to the championship game, going against the Camden County College Cougars .

The scene was set for what could have been a three-game sweep against the Northeast schools. 

The first half belonged to the T-Ducks as forward Sergio Lara kicked in the two goals at the 25 and 31 minute marks, both assisted by midfielder Mikkel Rohde Pedersen. In the first goal, Lara blew past a Camden defender and goaltender leaving both Cougars on their backs as Lara fired it in. 

In the second half, Richland forward David Fragua scored a goal at the 66-minute mark assisted by defender Nathan Thompson. Seventy-six minutes into the game, it was the captain’s turn as Rhode Pedersen hammered the final nail in the coffin unassisted. 

The championship game’s big number was four. The Thunderducks scored four goals and the Cougars scored four … yellow cards. As the public address announcer counted down the final seconds, you can hear the Richland bench on NJCAA TV chanting, “Olé” several times. Head coach Sean Worley, assistant coach Raul Herrera along with the reserves are all embracing each other as Richland achieved their goals. And with that it was final, in the books. In the words of the late great Mark Holtz, “HELLO WIN COLUMN!” But in this case, it was, “HELLO NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!” 

Richland shut out Camden, 4-0 to win the school’s sixth NJCAA National Championship, their first since 2007. All six titles were coached by Sean Worley. 

In 21 seasons, Worley has produced several winning seasons against the NJCAA’s top 10 teams, regional and district titles among them, runner-ups, third place finishes, not to mention six national crowns. In addition to his success before coming to Richland, Worley has a hall of fame résumé that our school should be is proud of. He finishes the season just one win away from 300. 

Queen’s “We Are The Champions” was played at Herkimer’s Wehrum Stadium and you can believe that song will be played back home. After years of close calls and heartbreaking upsets, this is the year the Thunderducks prevailed again. 

Worley taught these men how to soar to success as a team. When opponents mess with one duck, they’re messing with the entire flock. The T-Ducks kept trash from entering their nets and came back with sharp-shooting goals. We always do it big in Texas especially at Richland. 

We are proud of their success. The nine-year drought is over. Letthe celebration begin. Here’s to the men’s soccer team, national champs again. Congratulations!