It’s been a year of firsts for head coach Craig Stewart and his Providence Friars. The high-scoring Friars ended the regular season with their first Big East championship. And now, they now roll into their first College Cup as one of the final four teams left in Division I Men's Soccer.
The Friars opened the season strong, getting out to an early 4-1-0 start. They showed their offensive prowess as they outscored their opponents 13-6 in those five games, tallying two shutouts along the way. The Friars romped their way through October as well going 5-0-2 and pounding goals into the net almost at will. Over a seven game stretch in October, they outscored their opponents 12-5 with two more shutout victories.November rolled around and it appeared their magic had disappeared. They were shutout in back-to-back games before heading into the Big East Tournament. Still one of the favorites to win, the Friars threw it all together at the right time. They haven’t dropped a game since.
They beat Villanova in their first game 2-1, beat Creighton 1-0 in the next and defeated Xavier in the championship game 2-1 to bring Providence their first Big East championship on the pitch.
They headed into the NCAA tournament at an impressive 13-4-2, romping through the Big East with a 5-2-2 record. They were nearly untouchable at home, finishing the regular season at 9-1-1. All of those accomplishments garnered the Friars the 11th overall seed in the tourney.
Luckily for the Friars, there first two tests were at home where they succeeded so well during the season. Nothing changed. The Friars dismantled Dartmouth 3-0 in the second round and then pitched another shutout against UC Irvine in the next. It was then off to East Lansing to face the No. 3-seeded Michigan State Spartans. The Friars may have been the underdogs but they played like champions. They jumped out to an early 3-1 lead and were able to hold on to a 3-2 victory in one of the bigger, stunning upsets in the tournament. And now, for the first time, they are in the College Cup.
The Friars high-powered offense (16th in the nation) is led by senior Fabio Machado and sophomore Dominik Machado. Although they are not related by blood they certainly relate well together on offense combining for 30 points on the season. Together they were able to help the Friars score 1.86 goals a game which was good for 19th in the country. Fabio also led the team with an impressive five game-winning goals.
Senior co-captains defenseman Brandon Adler and midfielder Phil Towler played solid behind their forwards all season long. It enabled the Friars to lay down eight shutouts between the regular season and tournament play. Adler’s defensive game was so strong during the Big East Tournament that he took home the Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award. Adler and Towler joined both Machados and Mac Steeves on the All-Big East Second Team. Steeves scored nine goals on the year with 22 points. Freshman Daniel Neustadter made the All-Big East Freshman Team.
The next test for the Friars is a perennial tournament powerhouse. UCLA is very acclimated to handling the pressure and all that comes with being in the College Cup. This is their 14th visit compared to the newbies from Providence. UCLA went through high-powered offenses on their road to the final four as it downed both the No. 1 and No. 2 scoring offenses in the nation on their way to Cary.
Providence certainly will have their hands full, but if this season has shown us anything, it’s that you can never count the Friars out.