(October 31, 2019) Mena, Arkansas - It's been a long 10 months for Coach Brian Byrd. He started at UA Rich Mountain in early January with the goal of recruiting a men's and women's team in a very short period of time. He did just that in a short 7-month window before reporting day arrived on August 1st. Fast forward 3 months, the Bucks are at the end of their regular season. The women's team finished 7th in Region II and missed the playoffs. The men's team, however, had their backs against the wall with a team of freshmen, facing a no lose situation in the last 2 games of the regular season. A win against NOC-Tonkawa and draw with NEO has put the Bucks into the playoffs in their first season in school history.
To take a look back on the regular season, the Bucks started off hot with a 3-1 record before conference play began. This included wins over NCAA Division II Harding University and the nationally ranked LSU-Eunice Bengals, who currently sit at #5 in the polls. The Bucks took their hot streak on the road against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and notched their first Region II win in program history. After this win, a showdown at home between then nationally ranked Murray State ended in a 0-0 draw. A good feat, no big deal, right? Well including that date, the Bucks went 0-3-4 over a 5-week stretch, which can wear on a coach and his players. Facing a must win situation against NOC-Tonkawa, the Bucks scored a season high of 5 goals in a convincing win over the Mavericks. Heading into Tuesday night's game, the Bucks couldn't afford a loss to make the playoffs. In a season full of draws, Rich Mountain and NEO went toe to toe in the rain, wind, and cold for 110 minutes. The results would be the same as 4 regular season matches…a draw. The Bucks would finish the regular season with a 5-4-5 record overall. In Region II play, the Bucks tied all 5 opponents and pulled out 2 wins with 3 losses.
The rankings for the Region II Tournament are as follows: 1. Rose State College, 2. Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, 3. UA Rich Mountain, and 4. Northern Oklahoma - Tonkawa. Against the field, the Bucks have a 2-1-3 record. Both wins came against NEO and NOC-Tonkawa, and all three draws was with each school in the tournament. The only loss was at home against Rose State. The Bucks are slated to face the Norsemen of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M on Saturday afternoon in the Region II Semi-final with hopes of advancing to Sunday afternoon's championship game. It's win or go home from this point forward.
The Region II Tournament will be played in Enid, Oklahoma at D. Bruce Selby Stadium on November 2nd and 3rd. The Bucks and Norsemen play at 2:30 pm on Saturday, November 2nd.
The tournament will be livestreamed on Facebook (facebook.com/epstelevision) or Youtube (youtube.com/user/enidpublicschools/live). Live stats can also be found on bucksathletics.com.
Season Stat Leaders for the Bucks
Josh Gounden – 3 assists
Daniel Perez – 3 assists
Maurice Theart – 6 goals, 14 points (6 goals & 2 assists), 46 shots (2nd in Region II)
Edward Garcia – 17 goals against (tied for 3rd in Region II), 1.43 goals against average (2nd in Region II), 62 saves (3rd in Region II), 0.785 save percentage (1st in Region II), 4 shutouts