Three CAA MSOC Teams Open NCAA Play
Three CAA teams open play in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship on Thursday night with challenging first-round matchups. CAA champion Drexel visits former league foe Old Dominion at 6 p.m., William & Mary hosts former CAA member George Mason at 7 p.m. and Delaware entertains St. John’s at 7 p.m.
It’s the third year in a row and 10th time in conference history that at least three CAA teams have earned NCAA Tournament berths. The conference had one team advance to the Sweet 16 in 2010 and 2011.
Drexel, which is making consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in program history, will be searching for the squad's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. The Dragons captured the CAA regular-season title and then brought home the tournament crown for the first time after edging William & Mary 1-0 last Saturday. Senior midfielders Nathan Page (5g, 3a) and Ken Tribbett (4g, 2a), who both earned 1st team All-CAA honors, are Drexel’s top scorers. Defender Tal Bublil, who was honored as the Most Outstanding Player at the CAA Championship, anchors the backline in front of freshman goalkeeper Tyler Afflerbach (0.90 GAA, 64 svs., 6 ShO).
Old Dominion is returning to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive season, and a 10th time in 12 years. The Monarchs finished with the No. 2 seed in their first year in Conference USA, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Monarchs are led by Tim Hopkinson, whose 10 goals and 24 points pace the team. The winner of the Drexel/ODU game will travel to 6th-seeded Georgetown at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
William & Mary is making its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance and third under coach Chris Norris. The Tribe defeated a pair of No. 1-ranked teams this season and finished the regular season with an RPI of 17. W&M reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament in 2010. Jackson Eskay leads a balanced scoring attack with 19 points (7g, 5a) and Chris Albiston is close behind with 16 points (5g, 6a). Freshman goalkeeper Mac Phillips has recorded a CAA-best nine shutouts with the aid of a solid backline headlined by CAA Defensive Player of the Year Will Smith.
George Mason is making its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance, but first since 2008. The Patriots are unbeaten (8-0-4) in their past 12 contests with their last setback coming on September 25. Jannik Eckenrode tops the team with five goals and 13 points. The winner of the W&M/Mason game will face 7th-seeded New Mexico.
Delaware will host an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in over 40 years when it faces St. John’s on Thursday. The Blue Hens are making their second tournament appearance in the past three years, having upset Virginia 1-0 in 2011 before falling 1-0 at UCLA in the second round. UD was eliminated by Drexel on penalty kicks in the CAA Tournament, but received an at-large berth after posting a league-high 14 victories this season. The Blue Hens have one of the nation’s most prolific offenses led by CAA Rookie of the Year Guillermo Delgado (14g, 5a). Joe Dipre, Roberto Gimenez and Jaime Martinez also have five goals apiece. In net, Borja Barbero was a first-team All-CAA pick after posting a 1.20 GAA with five shutouts.
St. John’s, which is making its 20th NCAA Tournament appearance, has recorded four consecutive shutouts and has gone 4-1-1 in its past six matches. Goalkeeper Rafael Diaz has recorded 32 shutouts in his career, including nine this season to go with a 0.73 GAA. Jimmy Mulligan has scored a team-high six goals. The winner of the Delaware/St. John’s match will head to 8th-seeded Virginia on Sunday.