COSTA MESA — Two months ago, Vanguard University men's soccer coach Randy Dodge gathered his team for an important meeting.
With tears in his eyes he told his players of his mistake, about how he forgot to sit out a game to begin the season because of a red card from the finale last year. The Lions would have to forfeit six games, which meant their No. 5 ranking in the NAIA would drop and their chances for reaching the national tournament would be difficult.
But Dodge's emotion stirred the Lions. The players became motivated.
In the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament title match at Vanguard, that determination showed. The Lions scored three goals in the first half Saturday and punched their first ticket in school history to the national tournament with a 3-0 win against Azusa Pacific.
"As a professional I was destroyed, but these guys brought me back," Dodge said. "I did take it hard. These guys said, 'Screw it. We're good enough that we're going to win out.' They said, 'Coach, don't even worry about it. We got your back.' "