ELLISVILLE – Starting this season, Mississippi junior college soccer teams will be competing at the NJCAA Division II level.
The MACJC teams had been participating as Division I members.
The NJCAA had previously been offering soccer at only the Division I and Division III levels, but added D2 competition this year.
A major plus of the move to Division II is the fact that the MACJC/Region 23 Tournament winner automatically gets a bid to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. In past years, the Region 23 champion had to play a district playoff game, usually against teams from Texas or Florida, to make nationals.
JC women’s head coach Dolores Deasley said playing Division II competition is a fairer way for MACJC schools to compete nationally.
"Competing on the D2 level brings our conference onto a more level playing field with the rest of the country due to the restrictions we have in place,” said Deasley, who has guided Jones to five conference/region titles in her 12 years as head coach. “We have some exceptional student-athletes that come through our MACJC programs and I am excited about the opportunities this change presents moving forward. Our conference has been extremely progressive over the last 10 years and this change will only make it stronger."
Bobcat men’s head coach Brendan Connolly said that automatically qualifying for the national tournament is huge.
“Winning the conference has always been a great achievement and now there is even more to play for, as the conference winner will go directly to compete at the national tournament,” said Connolly, who has guided the Bobcats to two straight conference championships. “Having that incentive will only increase the quality of MACJC soccer even further.”
Connolly said the switch to D2 should be a boost to the entire conference.
“We are really excited that the NJCAA has introduced D2 soccer,” he said. “The quality of the teams in the MACJC has been improving year after year and this change will deservedly make our conference more relevant on the national level.”Both the women and men’s national tournaments will consist of 12-team fields with three teams in four pools.
The women’s national tournament will be Nov. 16-21 in Peachtree City, Georgia, and the men’s national tournament will be Nov. 16-21 in Wichita, Kansas.
The NJCAA added Division II for both soccer and cross country beginning this fall.
"We are excited about the addition of Division II competition in these two sports," said NJCAA Director of Championships Rod Lovett. "After surveying the membership, it was clear that there was both an interest and a need to make this addition. I truly think this will help schools maintain their programs and create growth in their respective sports in the future."
The divisional structure of the NJCAA operates under three tiers – Division I, II and III. Member colleges associated with Division I may grant full athletic scholarships (tuition, books, fees, room and board), up to $250 in course required supplies and transportation costs one time per academic year to and from the college by direct route. Division II members may grant athletic scholarships, but scholarships are limited to tuition, books, fees and up to $250 in course required supplies. The Division III level does not permit member colleges to offer any athletic scholarships.