The Master’s University’s 6-3 win over Bethesda Friday afternoon was more than just another victory. It was more than just a tune-up in advance of next week’s GSAC opener.
It was historic.
The Mustangs’ fifth win (5-2-1) of the 2016 campaign was head coach Jim Rickard’s 300th career victory, all coming at The Master’s since he took over the program’s reins in 1991. The milestone triumph vaulted Rickard into notable territory, tying him for seventh place on the NAIA’s active winningest coaches’ list and No. 18 on the all-time wins list.
The victory didn’t come easy. The Mustangs couldn’t put the pesky Flames away until the final five minutes of play when goals by Zach Klindworth and Humphrey Mahowa gave the club some much-needed breathing room and insurance.
Until that point, the Flames were just good enough to hang around. In fact, they drew first blood in the match’s sixth minute (5:14) when Jun Mo Ryu ripped a free kick past Mustang keeper Kyle Cunningham.
That slightest of leads held up for more than eight minutes until Klindworth took a feed from Benjamin Tembo, who had intercepted a pass, and blasted it past Flame keeper Oscar Gomez and into the upper-right corner of the net to tie the match at the 13:22 mark. It was Klindworth’s first goal of his senior season.
Nine minutes later (22:24), Tembo was the beneficiary of a teammate’s pass as Mahowa found the sophomore forward, who put it past Gomez for a 2-1 lead. Tembo’s fifth goal of the year gave the Mustangs a lead they would never relinquish.
Then, just as the Mustang fans settled back into their seats, Mahowa made them get up again, taking a pass from Christopher Logan and pushing it just inside the left post at 25:38 to double the advantage. Those three goals in just over 12 minutes could have made the Mustangs confident of an easy win but the Flames would have none of that.
With just 3:23 (41:37) left in the first half, a cross from Flame Cesar Pompa set up Jae Hyeok Choi for the score that narrowed the Mustang lead to 3-2.
The Mustangs, who outshot the Flames 9-4 over the opening 45 minutes, took that one-goal advantage to halftime.
In the opening minutes of the second stanza, the Mustangs went after Gomez with a barrage of shots and when Mahowa took a looping pass from Trevor Mangan in the 55th minute (54:34) and shot it past the Flame keeper, TMU once again had a two-goal advantage.
However, Bethesda didn’t fold up and go home. Instead, the Flames closed within one score again at 66:58 when Ryu lasered a free kick past goalie Casey Phillips, who replaced Cunningham between the pipes in the second half.
That’s where the Flame rally ended, though, and Klindworth and Mahowa had everything to do with it. The two, who have combined for so many goals in their first two years together, put the match away in a three-minute window in the closing moments.
First, it was Klindworth. The senior striker took a pass from Mahowa, via Tembo, and booted in his second goal of the game at 85:56 to hand the Mustangs another two-goal edge.
Then, with 1:40 (88:20) left to play, Mahowa sealed the win, taking a pass from Klindworth and hammering it past Gomez for his second career hat trick and the match’s final score. Mahowa’s three goals (to go along with a couple of assists) give him a team-high eight and his 20 points also lead the squad. He and Klindworth, who has a team-high five assists along with Luis Garcia-Sosa, combined for 13 points.
With the win finally secured, the focus turned to the post-game celebration and ceremony for Rickard and his family. He was feted by athletics director Steve Waldeck, who recounted some of his earlier milestone wins and read congratulatory notes from former players and Westmont head coach Dave Wolf, who shares the 300-win total with Rickard.
TMU President Dr. John MacArthur spent a few minutes recognizing Rickard for his leadership of young men down through the years and his commitment to Christ.
After the festivities, Rickard was able to reflect on the accomplishment with the following:
“Reflecting on 300 wins I’m grateful to so many people for this incredible journey. Special thanks to my wife Jolene for keeping me grounded and focused on what my purpose is. I’m thankful for my kids’ support and investment in their love for the players over the years. I’m grateful to my extended family, friends, President, faculty, staff, administration, alumni, players, colleagues, opponents, referees, and parents of players. I’m thankful that TMU put its trust in a young 23-year old to lead these players so long ago (1991). I’ve never felt pressure from the outside; my pressure and drive have come from within. With that desire to “succeed”, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and even have had regrets along the way. But, I’ve had so many help me stay resolved to lead others toward God and I owe a debt that can’t be repaid to them. Real success comes from a life dedicated and lived out in grateful service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I’ve failed many times in my example while trying to live the principles of Romans 12:1-2 out in front of my players. It’s odd to be honored and credited when I didn’t make a pass, didn’t score a goal, and wasn’t inside the lines in any of the 300 games. These victories have been forged on the backs of so many great players, a real life hall of fame. I’m so humbled to even have been a small part of their lives in service to our great God. In the end I pray our desire to honor God with the gifts and abilities he’s given the players and to use soccer as a platform to share the gospel of Jesus Christ has been evident throughout my journey.”