Who to watch in the semifinals of the DII Soccer Championship
Four rounds and 34 teams later, the final four teams are left standing in the Division II Men's Soccer Championship.
Last year's national champion Wingate was ousted in the second round. While a new champion will be crowned, the 2017 national semifinals is stuffed with plenty of familiar faces. Four regulars of going deep in the postseason kickoff the action Thursday, November 30 at 6 p.m. ET from Swope Park in Kansas City, Missouri.
Here's a look at those teams still in the hunt for a national championship.
Lynn vs. Rockhurt
Lynn is making its eighth overall trip to the semifinals, and the fourth under the John Rootes era. The Fighting Knights head coach led Lynn to three national title games in four years, winning it all in 2012 and 2014. This year's rendition finished 14-3-2, defeating top-seeded Palm Beach Atlantic, West Alabama and Young Harris en route to Kansas City.
Senior forward Alun Webb led the Fighting Knights offensively all season. His nine goals and five assists were both tops on the team. Junior midfielders Tomer Bitton and Max Herbert have been hot of late, each with four goals on the season. Sophomore defensemen Gustavo Bergman picked a fine time for his first goal of the season, hitting the game-winner in the quarterfinals. Senior keeper Alexander Roth posted 12 shutouts this season, one of which has come in the postseason.
Male Player of the Week is Kaleb Jackson. He scored the game-winner Saturday in overtime to send the Hawks to their third straight NCAA Final Four appearance.@RockUMensSoccer pic.twitter.com/kbAZnK3BO4— Rockhurst Athletics (@RUhawks) November 21, 2017
Rockhurst will be looming large on the other side of the pitch. The Hawks quarterfinals win was number 696 in head coach Tony Tocco's illustrious, 46-year career. It made him the winningest intercollegiate coach in the game. He has Rockhurst in the semifinals for the fourth time in five years. None of those teams have advanced to the championship game.
Looking to get the Hawks over the hump will be senior forward Kaleb Jackson. Jackson paced the Great Lakes Valley Conference's top offense with a GLVC-best 13 goals. He also led the Hawks with seven assists. Keep an eye on Adam Michel, who's eight goals were second-best on the squad. He added five assists, third on the team behind senior midfielder Ben McDonald. Senior goal keeper Logan Feldmann is riding the hot hand. He hasn't allowed a goal in the postseason.
Cal Poly Pomona vs. Charleston (WV)
Cal Poly Pomona heads to Kansas City as the tournament's giant killers thus far. The Broncos figured out a way to shutout Pacwest record-setting goal scorer Aidan Apodaca, upsetting No. 2-ranked California Baptist 1-0. Cal Poly Pomona then advanced to the semifinals in a shootout, knocking off No. 1-ranked Midwestern State. It now has to face the No. 3-ranked team in DII, and will pull off quite the feat should they advance one more round.
Adam Reeves has led the Broncos to the finals before, but not as their head coach. The former assistant is 17-5-1 in his first year as Acting Head Coach. Senior midfielder Sergi Monso is the man that could get them back to the finals. His 21 goals are third-best in DII and his 11 assists lead the team. This team has plenty of scorers, and Charleston needs to keep tabs on Jimmie Villalobos who has eight goals of his own.
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Charleston (WV) is the highest-ranked team left in the mix, No. 3 in DII. Sophomore goal keeper Paulo Pita made sure the Golden Eagles returned to their fourth straight semifinals, not allowing a goal the entire postseason.
The Golden Eagles are led by first-year head coach Dan Stratford. As Charleston's assistant the past three seasons, he has been to two national championship games in the past three seasons. He hopes to get the Golden Eagles on the right side of the scoreboard this time and bring home the program's first national championship.
Charleston enters the match 19-1-2, its lone loss coming in the Mountain East Conference championship game to West Virginia Weslyan. The Golden Eagles got their revenge in the first round, ending West Virginia Wesleyan's season before defeating West Chester and LIU Post in shutout fashion. As he has the past three years, senior forward Will Roberts led the way this season. His 11 goals were best on the team, while his five assists were second. Junior mid Patrick Guier had another stong season as well, putting in seven goals to go along with seven assists. It doesn't end there, however, as the Golden Eagles have plenty of ways to attack behind the fourth-best scoring offense in DII.
Everyone remaining has the semifinals experience, but only Lynn has gone on to win it all. With three teams looking to make program history, this could be a championship for the ages.