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Nerves Not a Factor as Archers Begin National Tourney

November 12, 2012

Jessica Smugala  
Freshman Jessica Smugala and the Archers take on Butler
Community College this afternoon in the opening round of
the NJCAA Women's Soccer Championship Tournament.

To head coach Juergen Huettner, the notion that his STLCC women’s soccer team would approach this week any differently than they have approached every other week of the season isn’t just incorrect. It’s practically laughable.

“We’re excited we’re still playing and we’re looking forward to playing some really good competition,” Huettner said. “(But) this group is really funny, and I don’t think they know the difference between being tense and being fun and relaxed. They don’t have a clue, and I like it that way.”

True to their coach’s assessment, the Archers seem confident, excited, and generally unfazed by any hoopla surrounding their pursuit of a national title. For a team that all year has been fueled by a talented freshman class and led by a small group of sophomores, the Archers have already achieved a tremendous amount by advancing to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Championship Tournament. Anything added from this point is a bonus.

“We take everything really easy, so we don’t get stressed out too much,” said sophomore defender Katie Foytlin (Belleville East). “I think that scares them a bit. We’re going to come out strong and play our game.”

Their “game” has been one of the best runs in the nation over the past two months. Since losing 4-0 to Brevard Community College, the top-ranked team in the nation, on Sept. 1, the Archers have won 16 of their last 17 games, including a pair of 1-0 wins in the Region XVI Tournament. They then earned their trip to the NJCAA Tournament in Melbourne, Fla., with a 3-1 win in the District D playoff against Heartland Community College, which entered the contest ranked 11th nationally.

Given their success in those recent high-stakes games, the Archers’ confidence and loose approach to each game has clearly served as an asset.

“I’m not going to look at any game as an easy game or a hard game,” said freshman forward Jessica Smugala (Seckman), who leads the Archers in scoring with 12 goals and five assists this season. “You’ve got to play your heart out no matter what.”

The Archers will be sure to do just that today when they take on fourth-seeded Butler Community College (Kansas) in the tournament opener. STLCC will conclude pool play tomorrow against Tyler Community College (Texas).

With so much success in the past two months, the Archers certainly aren’t looking for the season to end just yet. Even so, Huettner is quick to note that this season has been a tremendous ride already, regardless of the team’s showing in Florida.

“This is huge for the girls,” Huettner said. “The accomplishment is getting to nationals. They should be very proud of themselves, and St. Louis Community College can be very proud of this team. They are now one of the top 12 teams in the country. It’s difficult to get there. Anything we do from here on out is bonus.”

Game time for the Archers’ national tournament opener against Butler is 3:30 pm CST, and will be broadcast at www.ihigh.com.