Caps In College: NCAA postseason tournaments now underway
The CIS season is all done and dusted and if you were following our Thunderbirds Week last week, then you’ll know that the UBC Thunderbirds did the repeat and became the first back to back CIS Champions since 2001.
Our attention now turns to NCAA action.
In Division 2, the Simon Fraser University Clan kick off their postseason on Thursday night in California. It’s going to be a long, tough road if they want to match or better their ‘Final Four’ appearance from a year ago, but we certainly know they are capable of rising to it.
Division 1 has seen some regular season Conference Champions already crowned, including Ben McKendry’s New Mexico Lobos, but whilst there is still some positioning up for grabs in this final week, the postseason tournaments are already underway.
Callum Irving came up with a huge penalty save to keep his Kentucky Wildcats’ postseason hopes alive. For others, their season is already over after early tournament losses.
NCAA II – SFU
Division 2 postseason play gets underway on Thursday evening and SFU Clan will need to be at their best to get anywhere near to last season’s heroics, with 34 other teams standing in their way.
It’s been a strange couple of weeks for the Clan since we last wrote this section.
SFU clinched their fourth straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) title in dramatic fashion on November 2nd, with a 1-0 overtime win over closest challengers, and derby rivals, Seattle Pacific. Jovan Blagojevic poked home the Championship winning goal in the 106th minute and sent the home fans and players into raptures. You can see that goal and the initial celebrations in our video below.
With the title in the bag, the Clan seemed to come out a bit flat for their last regular season game and were made to pay on Saturday night with a 3-0 thumping from Western Washington Vikings in Bellingham, with all the damage coming in the first 14 minutes of the match.
The loss saw the Clan finish with a 15-2-1 regular season record, 11-2-1 in conference play and sweep the board in the GNAC honours.
Alan Koch was named ‘Coach of the Year’ for the fourth year running, with German midfielder Chris Bargholz picking up the ‘Player of the Year’ honours. Whitecaps Residency alumni Alex Rowley picked up the ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ award and Norwegian Magnus Kristensen picked up the ‘Freshman of the Year’ honours.
All three players were named to the Conference ‘First Team’, with five others making the ‘Second Team’.
Now the hard work really starts for the Clan as they kick off their postseason quest down in California.
We’ll not really know if the loss to WWU had any impact on their positioning, but considering the Clan were ranked in the top two and three in the whole of NCAA for most of the season, but still ranked 4th by the selection panel in the West, lets you know how farcical the whole selection process is and the problems the Clan face as a Canadian school in an American system. For what it’s worth, the loss did send the Clan crashing from 2nd to 12th in the final NSCAA Coaches rankings.
All that’s behind them now and they know their fate if they want to make it back to the final four in December.
First up will be California Baptist at 7pm on Thursday evening. Cal-Baptist were the Pac-West Conference champions and are ranked fifth in the West, finishing with an 10-6-1 record. This will be the Baptists first postseason appearance.
If they get past that challenge then they will square off against the hosting Cal State LA on Saturday night. Cal State won the California Collegiate Athletic Association title and are the number one seeds in the West with a 14-1-5 record and ranked 5th nationally. They’ll be a tough team to break down, conceding only ten goals for the whole year, but the Clan have the best attack in all of Division 2, so it’s shaping up to be a cracker if they can get past the first hurdle.
No word yet on whether there will be streams of the games, but it’s not looking too hopeful. ‘Mon the Clan.
Ben McKendry’s New Mexico Lobos finished the season strongly with a 3-0 win over Old Dominion and a 2-0 win over Callum Irving’s Kentucky to win Conference USA.
McKendry scored the Lobos’ second goal with a 77th minute header past his friend Irving to clinch the Championship. Irving made three saves in the match and his Kentucky Wildcats side also made the postseason Conference tournament, along with Quinton Duncan’s Tulsa Hurricanes.
Both Ben and Callum made the All-Conference USA ‘First Team’ in the end of year awards.
You can see Ben’s goal, rather dodgy celebration and an interview below:
Kentucky had headed into that Lobos game on the back of a 6-1 win over Florida Atlantic and a 2-2 draw with Wesley Cain’s Wright State. Irving made four saves over the two matches.
Tulsa closed out their regular season with 2-0 win over Florida International and a 3-0 win over Florida Atlantic. Quinton Duncan played 143 minutes over the two matches, with one shot.
The Conference USA final tournament got underway on Wednesday and both Kentucky and Tulsa have made it through to Friday’s semi final.
The Wildcats were made to work hard in a 1-0 93rd minute golden goal overtime win over Old Dominion. Callum Irving was the hero in normal time, saving a 62nd minute penalty and making six saves to keep Kentucky’s postseason hopes alive. They now play Charlotte at 4.30pm in Friday second semi final.
The Hurricanes fought back from being a goal down at half time to hit three second half goals in a 3-1 win. Duncan played the full 90 and had one shot. They will now go on to face New Mexico in Friday’s first semi final, kicking off at 2pm PT.
Over in the Horizon League, Cain’s WSU Raiders finished the regular season with two wins and a draw. Cain played in all three matches and grabbed his second goal of the season 33 seconds into the second half of the 3-2 away win over San Diego State on November 8th.
The Raiders season is now done however following a 2-1 loss to Cleveland State in the first round of the Horizon League tournament on Tuesday night.
The same is also possibly true for Brody Huitema and his Duke Blue Devils.
Duke finished the regular season with a 3-0 win over Pitt and a 1-0 win over Clemson, with Brody grabbing an assist in the latter.
Tuesday night saw the Quarter Finals of the ACC Tournament kick off and Notre Dame, who are ranked number three nationally right now, saw off Duke with 59th minute winner in a 1-0 win. Huitema played 81 minutes, with no shots.
It’s up to the RPI rankings now to see if they make the NCAA tournament.
Declan Rodriguez kicks off his post season on Friday when his Milwaukee Panthers face Oakland in the Horizon League tournament semi final in Chicago.
The Panthers come into the postseason off a 5-0 thumping handed out to Cleveland State in their final regular season game on Saturday. Rodriguez had an assist on the first goal.
Sean Melvin played in UNC Wilmington’s final two regular season games, making seven saves in the 2-2 draw with William and Mary and the 4-2 win over Northeastern.
William and Mary (I know, so many gags!) will now be the Seahawks opponents in Thursday’s CAA Championship semi final.
Good luck to all the guys still left in the hunt. Once the weekend’s tournaments have all been decided, the first round of the NCAA playoffs proper will get underway next week.