Soccer duo thriving at MCC
Manhattan Christian College has assembled a strong soccer tradition, finishing second in the national tournament the last two years and third in 2000.
With the help of two Tonganoxie High alumni, the Crusaders were one victory away from their first national championship this year.
Sweeper Kyle Rodell and defender Dustin Schultz contributed to MCC's 21-4-1 campaign that ended at the National Christian College Athletic Association on Nov. 9 in Kissimmee, Fla.
Rodell, a sophomore at MCC, was a prominent leader for the Crusaders. The 2001 THS graduate was named first-team all-American, along with all-conference, all-region and all-national tournament. Rodell, who coach Rick Wright called the fastest sweeper in the college's history, joined Joe Schutte and Mark Smith on the all-American squad.
"I have to give credit to the guys around me," Rodell said.
As for Schultz, he garnered all-region honors and all-tournament honors from a tourney Sept. 6-7 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
After completing his first year of collegiate soccer, Schultz said it's been an experience.
"Everyone's really good," Schultz said about the college competition. "I've learned so much more from practicing with the guys and listening to them.
"It's a lot more intense, but you also have a lot more fun learning all kinds of stuff."
Schultz and Rodell are links in what's become a pipeline from Tonganoxie to Manhattan.
Former Tonganoxie coach Harold Pittman played at MCC, as have three of his other players Will and Kyle Black, and Bryce Cooper. Pittman, who finished his tenure at THS this fall and will move to Oklahoma in the coming months, actually helped coach the Crusaders in Florida at nationals.
Through what Pittman called a mystery gift, this year's Chieftains gave him a plane ticket to the tournament. The players even put together a scavenger hunt for the gift.
"Somebody had extra time on their hands," Pittman said with a laugh.
Pittman said practices were structured different from what he was used to running. Scrimmaging was at a minimum, as smaller games with six-on-six were more common.
Coaching offense in the tournament was a wonderful experience, Pittman said. Schultz also was delighted to have his former coach in attendance.
"I was glad just that he was down there and was able to see Kyle and me play," Schultz said. "He's taught us a lot. He's a big part of that."
Pittman was a major component in the Crusaders' rise to prominence in soccer. MCC has posted a 197-53-4 since 1990, with Pittman playing in 1990, '92, '93 and '94. The Crusaders won either the Midwest Christian College Conference tournament or regular-season title in each of those years. Pittman also was part of the National Bible College Athletic Association championship team in 1994.
MCC fared well nationally recently, finishing eighth or better in the national tournament every year since 1998. Before joining the NCCAA, the Crusaders also won the National Bible College Athletic Association championship in 1991.
The Crusaders have failed to win either the MCCC tournament or regular-season title just once and that was in 1997.
But successful seasons haven't always been in the team's vocabulary. Rodell described what he was told about the team's earliest stages in the late 1980s when the school fielded a club team.
"They had to search the dorms to find athletes," Rodell said.
His high school coach agreed.
"That's an accurate statement," Pittman said. "There was a good high jumper for the Kansas State University and we grabbed him to be our goalie. He didn't have any prior experience, but he did a good job for us."
It was sometimes difficult to field a team in 1988 and '89, when Pittman played club ball.
"We were lucky to have 11 starters who had played before that year," Pittman said.
But now, the players have extended experience, with two players catching coach Rick Wright's eye.
"They have only one level of effort and that is all out, " Wright said about Schultz and Rodell. "Never have they had to be told to increase the effort or hustle. It flows in their veins."
With the season complete, Rodell and Schultz have a few more hours on their hands, but they've been reserved for large exams. And Rodell, who is taking 20 hours this semester, is the youth minister at Nortonville Christian Church. Nortonville is roughly a half-hour drive from Tonganoxie, but a two-hour drive from Manhattan each weekend. That helped keep Rodell's plate full during the soccer season.
"It was kind of tough," Rodell said.
Now the two former Chieftains will prepare for another run at a national championship. Rodell already took part in some club level scrimmages against K-State last week. Although Schultz couldn't attend, Rodell and some MCC colleagues won two of three indoor games against the Wildcats.
When next September approaches, the games won't be scrimmages. At that point, Schultz hopes the Crusaders will be making their way toward another national tournament berth and that elusive national title.
"We're going to try to win it next year, that's what we're trying for," Schultz said. "We only lost one senior."