Tyler’s Case Carnes admits that he and his Mary Hardin-Baylor teammates never thought they’d reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III men’s soccer championship.
The Crusaders hadn't played in an NCAA tournament game for eight years before this month. In fact, UMHB hadn't reached the final of its own conference tournament in that time span.
Mary-Hardin Baylor (17-2-1) will face Emory (14-5-1) (Atlanta, Georgia) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the third round of the national tournament from Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in Chicago, Illinois.
UMHB has added a new chapter to its program’s history books due in large part to the continued goal scoring of Carnes, a senior forward and 2013 Tyler Lee graduate. Carnes is a four-year letterman for the Crusaders, who is enjoying the best season of his career.
He enters Friday with a team-leading 10 goals to go with five assists. Of the 10 times he’s been on target, seven of those were game-winning goals. Carnes scored the game-winner for UMHB over UT Tyler in the ASC championship before following it with the lone goal in the Crusaders’ tournament-opening win over Willamette University (Salem, Oregon) and provided the first of three goals for UMHB in its 3-2 upset victory over No. 2 Trinity University (San Antonio).
“We’re senior heavy this year … we’ve had the mentality this season on what we wanted to do,” said Carnes by phone from Chicago. “We had a goal in mind and went for it.”
That “goal” was to finally get over the hump in the American Southwest Conference tournament and net their head coach, Brad Bankhead, his first conference title.
UT Tyler had been a nemesis of sorts for UMHB, knocking the Crusaders out of the ASC tournament in three of the past five years. UT Tyler took out UMHB in the quarterfinals during Carnes’ junior season.
With the score deadlocked at zeroes in the 80th minute, UMHB defender Steven Dang launched a throw-in into the box. Logan Keeler got enough of it to flick the ball to the back post where Carnes had drifted to. The senior made no mistake with his volleyed shot.
“I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” said Carnes, who now has 23 goals in his career for UMHB. “It was a first time (to win it) for us.”
That was the second game of what has blossomed into a four-match goal scoring streak. Against Trinity, Carnes scored the first of three first-half goals as the Crusaders led 3-2 at halftime and held on through the second half for the win.
“Our coach told us before to just enjoy the game because none of the pressure was on us,” Carnes said. “They were No. 2, but we knew we were good enough to hang with them. In the second half they were putting pressure on trying to tie the game and our goalie, Bryce Eichhorn, and our defense played phenomenal.”
That brings Carnes and the Crusaders to this next step. He acknowledges that UMHB was never picked to make it this far, but like with the Trinity game, he said there is no pressure.
“Now that we’ve made it this far, we might as well see how far we can go,” Carnes said. “We are excited to be here and expect to go further.”
Notes: The winner of Mary Hardin-Baylor-Emory will play the winner of Chicago (18-2) and Calvin (21-0-1) in the quarterfinals at a date and time yet to be determined.