Any coach will tell you that the key to playoff success is developing a team that will peak when the post-season arrives.
If that's the case, then University of Minnesota, Morris men's soccer head coach Christian DeVries must be ecstatic. His players decimated a competitive Crown College team 9-1 in an Upper Midwest Athletic Confernece semifinal game played in Morris Tuesday.
The Cougars host St. Scholastica Saturday at 2 p.m. in the UMAC tournament final. The Cougars and Saints have split games this season.
Seven Cougars contributed points to the win, led by senior midfielder Patrick O'Connor who scored two goals and dished out three assists. O'Connor, who is currently ranked third in the nation in assists per game in Division III, will likely move up to the number two spot by the end of the week.
O'Connor scored his first goal of the first half in the 11th minute, pushing home a pass from sophomore Matt Johnson, who would later score his first goal of the year in the 32nd minute.
Reserve forward Mahad Abdi came off the bench to punch home a shot just before halftime, increasing the UMM lead to 5-0.
Senior midfielder Kelsey Duerr also had a first-half tally.
The Cougars cruised early in the second half, defending through possession, keeping the speedy Crown forwards from being able to sustain an attack.
In the 75th minute, UMM had another short goal explosion, adding three more scores in a four-minute span. The first came from junior Mattson Towley on an assist from O'Connor. Senior Brent Diggs scored 37 seconds later on a touch-touch from Duerr and O'Connor. Then, three minutes later, O'Connor found Duerr, who made a beautiful finish in the box, swiping O'Connor's pass out of the air for a shot in the lower left corner.
Diggs rounded out the offensive onslaught with his second goal of the afternoon (and team-leading 18th of the season) in the 81st minute.
The lone Crown goal came on a penalty kick in the 87th minute when the game was more than out of reach.
Sophomore defender Greg Borchers says the key to winning will be simple.
"We have to play well. We had a rough go of it the last time we went up there. We just got to play our game... We have to play the ball around and play our field. You know, we worked so hard to get [the tournament] here and now we have to use it."