Division II men's soccer: 2016 championship semifinals preview
Sometimes soccer is like hockey in the sense that the team that enters postseason play with the hottest goalkeeper is often most suited for a title run. If that is the case this season, watch out for Wingate, which has held all three of its opponents scoreless in the NCAA Tournament en route to reaching the semifinals. One of those shutouts was a 1-0 victory against defending national champion Pfeiffer, who entered the match with 100 goals scored in the season.
However, if hometown advantage means anything, give an edge to Rockhurst. Swope Park Soccer Village is only five miles from its campus.
Finally, Charleston is hoping the third time is indeed the charm. The Golden Eagles are playing in their third straight semifinal match.
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CHARLESTON (W.VA.) (18-2-2)
Signature win: To reach their third straight semifinals, the Golden Eagles beat Adelphi in a shootout in the Super Region I championship game. The 2-2 game went to penalty kicks after two overtimes and Charleston then won on the penalty kicks 5-3.
Players to watch: Junior forward Will Roberts leads the team with 21 goals. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Guier ranks first on the team with 19 assists.
Interesting facts: Last year, Charleston lost 2-1 to Pfeiffer in the semifinals. Pfeiffer went on to win the national championship and finish 25-0. In 2014, Charleston lost 3-2 to Lynn in the championship game.
Coach: Chris Gassie
Signature win: In its final regular season game Rockhurst won 3-0 at William Jewell. The Hawks were coming off a 3-1 loss at Missouri S&T. In the victory against William Jewell, the Hawks played without three key starters because of injuries.
Players to watch: Despite starting just 13 of 23 games, junior Kaleb Jackson leads the team with 12 goals and also has five assists. Junior goalkeeper Logan Feldmann has played every second this season and has allowed 15 goals for a 0.63 average per game.
Interesting facts: Rockhurst is making its second straight trip to the semifinals. Last year, the Hawks lost 1-0 to Cal Poly Pomona in the semifinals. Rockhurst is located in Kansas City with the campus only five miles away from Swope Park Soccer Village.
Senior midfielder Gianluca Bottoni earned first team CoSIDA Academic All-American honors. Bottoni, who has a 3.90 GPA in accounting, has scored eight goals and nine assists for 27 points.
Coach: Tony Tocco
UC SAN DIEGO (19-2-2)
Signature win: On Nov. 6, in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament championship game, UC San Diego won 2-1 in overtime for its first CCAA tournament title. This win prepared the Tritons for its region. UC San Diego beat Cal Poly Pomona 1-0 in overtime in the third round.
Player to watch: Senior forward Kuba Waligorski scored both second-half goals in UC San Diego’s 2-1 comeback victory over Midwestern State in the quarterfinals. He has four goals on the season. The Tritons have six players with at least four goals.
Interesting facts: This is the Tritons first national semifinal appearance since 1993 when they won the program’s third and final national championship at the Division III level. UC San Diego is 13-1 in one-goal games.
Coach: Jon Pascale
Signature win: The Bulldogs beat Pfeiffer, the defending national champions, 1-0 in the Southeast Regional championship game. The winning goal came in the 63rd minute by senior midfielder Aksel Juul.
Players to watch: Senior forward Jon Ander has eight goals and 11 assists for a team-leading 27 points. Junior forward Elma N’For leads the team with nine goals. Sophomore goalkeeper Pablo Jara has allowed only eight goals for a goal average per game of 0.45.
Interesting facts: Wingate handed Pfeiffer its first shutout loss since 2014. Wingate entered the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 1. After losing 1-0 in the South Atlantic Conference Tournament, Wingate has recorded shutouts in all three of its NCAA Tournament games.
Coach: Gary Hamill