Before the Maryville College men’s soccer team took the field Tuesday, Maryville College president Tom Bogart presented Pepe Fernandez with a plaque at midfield, honoring the veteran soccer coach for becoming one of only four coaches nationally to reach 500 career wins while directing both men’s and women’s teams.
Maryville’s men put No. 500 in the books with a 2-1 win at Transylvania last week. Tuesday, the Scots followed Bogart’s presentation with one of their own, staging a stirring second half rally to force overtime and play Fernandez’s alma mater, Tennessee Wesleyan, to a 2-2 draw at Maryville.
The Lady Scots collected win No. 502 for their coach by stopping Bryan College, 1-0, prior to Tuesday’s men’s match. Freshman Ashley Howarth delivered on a diving header for the goal just before halftime, with junior goalkeeper Desiree Simmons collecting the shutout.
With Tuesday’s wins, Maryville men’s teams have accounted for 265 of Fernandez’s 503 victories at the school, with women’s teams collecting 238 of them.
Prior to Tuesday’s matches, Fernandez said you can’t think about milestones in the middle of the season.
“I really didn’t think too much about it,” he said. “I kind of downplayed it, even in my mind. What’s been fun has been hearing from the former assistants and the former players. That’s been really overwhelming. I can’t tell how many kids have text me, emailed me, or called me. It’s just made it a lot of fun.”
The help of assistants Jon Baker and John LaCava through the years has been invaluable, Fernandez said. When the men and women have matches scheduled in different cities on the same day, Baker will travel with one while Fernandez directs the other.
“There’s no way I could have done this without Baker the last few years,” Fernandez said. “Baker’s probably had half of those (wins), LaCava a quarter of them.”
It was no creampuff the Scots had scheduled on a night the school was honoring their coach. The Bulldogs, with a decidedly international roster, beat Maryville back on its heals the first 45 minutes to take a 2-0 lead at the break.
“Our team bounced back and played some unbelievable soccer,” Fernandez said.
The Scots controlled possession when play resumed, Maryville defenders taking longer touches to get the offense forward. Senior midfielder Ryan Radcliffe cut the Wesleyan lead by a goal in the 70th minute with ripping shot to the upper 90. With six minutes remaining in regulation, defender Ridge Carter collected a Tyler Tinker cross at the left post and buried a shot to the back of the net to pull Maryville even.
“He made a great run and unselfishly slipped it over to me,” Carter said.
After opening the season 0-3, Maryville (4-3-1) is unbeaten in its last five matches.
“We’ve been having a problem giving effort in the second half,” Carter said. “Maybe being down two goals kicked it into us.”
The Scots hit the road for a three-match conference swing beginning Saturday at LaGrange. Maryville is next at home against Piedmont is Oct. 16 at 6 p.m.
Peterson pushing the pace
Senior Jessica Peterson has been a major factor in helping Fernandez to his career mark. All the while, Peterson has been staring one of her own right in the face.
This past week, the super-quick forward used a goal against Transylvania and a hat trick against Spelman to move within two goals of tying former Scot Jennifer Windrow’s school record of 70.
“We really thought that was one record that would never be touched. If things go well, she’s not only going to touch it, but she’s going to add to it,” Fernandez said. “We couldn’t have a more deserving girl.
“What’s neat about her is that she’s a great student, a great leader in the community. She is very hard working, and all the attributes that you’d want in a student athlete, not to mention, she’s very humble. You like to see somebody with her work ethic and as humble as she is. To reach a milestone like that is very special.”
Peterson is familiar with breaking Maryville records. Already, she holds the records for single-season goals (34) and single-season points (79). Most recently, she broke the career points record, her 173 total at present five points beyond Windrow’s former mark.
“Another amazing record that had been there for 11 years,” Fernandez said.
Peterson currently trails former Scot Sarah Harmon by five for the career assists record.
“It looks like when all is said and done, she might hold every scoring record for Maryville College, which is pretty impressive with as many career athletes and goal scorers we’ve had here,” Fernandez said.
The Lady Scots (3-5-1) visit LaGrange for a doubleheader with the men’s team on Saturday. Maryville is next at home on Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.
Blount Today Sports Editor Stefan Cooper contributed to this report.