-Article by Devon Douglas & photo by Rocco Geppi-
CCBC Essex Men’s Soccer defeated the Howard Dragons 3-0 on Saturday to capture their 10th consecutive NJCAA Region 20 title and second straight NJCAA Mid-Atlantic Division II championship.
With the victory, the No. 1 ranked Knights earned an automatic bid to the NJCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Championships tournament in Wichita, Kan. The tournament will run November 15-21.
Sophomore midfielder Andy Portillo (Laurel, Md.) scored the first goal of the match in the 49th minute after he dribbled past a few Howard players and drove the ball perfectly into the top right corner from the left side of the field, 20 yards out.
Portillo has been one of the Knights target men this season and is the team’s third leading goal scorer with nine goals.
Portillo’s goal gave the Knights (16-1) the momentum they needed, as they were finding chance after chance on goal.
Howard had trouble winning the ball from the Knights and growing frustrations led to fouls.
Just seven minutes after the Knight’s first goal, sophomore midfielder Sam Mejia (Riverdale, Md.) scored on a free kick from 25 yards out, also placing the ball in the top right corner.
Sophomore forward Sam Diaz (Lanham, Md.) capped the Knight’s scoring in the 77th minute on an assist from freshman forward Michael Adekanmbi (Bowie, Md.)
Sophomore goalkeeper Brenden LeMaster (Bowie, Md.) displayed a good performance for the Knights, as he saw more action this game with five shots coming his way.
It seems when these two programs meet, the match narrative is intensity and the result is decided late in the match.
Earlier this season, the Knights defeated the Dragons 2-1 in overtime after sophomore defender Kota Tsuchisawa (Yaita, Japan) won the game by way of a 97th minute golden goal.
This matchup was more of the same in the first half, as both teams found opportunities on goal and displayed good defensive shape.
However, in the second half the Knights found a way to expose Howard and take complete control of the match.
Ethan Stewart (Fairfax, Va.), Mejia, Portillo, Toga Katsuma (Honshu, Japan) and LeMaster all earned All-Region 20 Division II Tournament Team honors.
The Knights now have two weeks to prepare for the national championship tournament.
With added depth this season, CCBC Essex looks to improve over the spring season’s national runner-up finish and earn their first national championship since 1974.