CONCORDIA, Kansas — The No. 7 ranked Cloud County Community College men's soccer team began postseason play in impressive fashion on Thursday, cruising to a 3-1 victory over Johnson County Community College in the first round of the Region VI playoffs.
Cloud County (14-2 overall), the top seed out of the KJCCC West, advances to face the winner between Garden City Community College and Kansas City Kansas Community College at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Concordia.
On Thursday, the T-Birds received a pair of second-half goals from sophomore forward Luiz Garcia to put away from the visiting Cavaliers (8-10-1 overall), the No. 4 seed out of the KJCCC East.
The T-Birds owned a 15-3 shots advantage on the afternoon, but had to settle for a 1-1 tie at the half. Cloud County kicked of the game's scoring at the 14:06 mark as Guilherme Martins collected a rebound off his own blocked shot and fed a cross to sophomore Hakeem Smith for his third goal of the season.
"That was a very unselfish play by Guilherme," said Cloud County head coach, James Ross. "And Hakeem was very good (Thursday). He was everywhere."
Johnson County answered back 10 minutes later with a wind-aided scoring chance. Landon Rupp took a free kick from just inside midfield and, with the wind at his back, had his pass make it all the way into the goalkeeper's box where Chace Beckham was able to deflect in the goal with a header.
The two teams remained tied at 1-1 until the 59:15 mark of the second half when Garcia drilled a free kick from just outside the box over the goalkeeper's hands to put Cloud County back on top, 2-1. The scoring chance was set up by a hand ball called on Johnson County.
Garcia netted his second goal of the game — his 20th of the season in 14 games played — nine minutes later as he corralled a bad clearing attempted from Johnson County and put a shot into the bottom-right corner for an insurance goal.
"The longer the game stayed at 1-1, it was going to benefit Johnson County. Those were two big goals from Luiz," Ross said. "He's just been phenomenal this season."
Garcia being on the field was a good sign in itself after he left Cloud County's regular season finale against Indian Hills on Oct. 18 in an ambulance following an elbow to the neck area.
Thursday also marked the return for Cloud County sophomore center back, Alan Brandao. The team co-captain missed the previous nine games after he took a knee to the face on a tackle attempt back on September 16th against Barton Community College.
"It's so nice to have Alan back because he kind of controls the whole team with how vocal he is," Ross said.
Cloud County will look to punch its ticket back to the Plains District Championships when it hosts the second round of the Region VI playoffs at 1 p.m. Sunday.