The Margin For Error Is Small And Lapses In Play Costly As First Round Plays Gets Underway Thursday
Hofstra (14-3-3) at South Florida (8-6-4)
Hofstra out of the CAA comes into this one on a five-game winning streak during which time they have scored a total of 14 goals and only allowed two. This is an explosive Hofstra team with an attack that features midfielder Eliot Goldthorp (15g, 6a) and forward Ryan Carmichael (10g, 4a). If they get into a rhythm Hofstra will be had to contain.
South Florida, like every other team in the American Athletic Conference this year, had an up and down season. Fortunately for the Bulls the “up portion” came during the latter part of the season which enhanced their case for an at-large berth. South Florida won five in a row before losing to FIU 2-0 in the AAC Championship game.
The Bulls turned things around by tightening up their play on the defensive side of the ball while forwards Oscar Resano and Alfred Perez among others began to come up with the big plays, they needed on the offensive side of the ball in order to prevail.
Cleveland State (11-3-5) at Pittsburgh (8-4-5)
Cleveland State has had a banner season during which they claimed both the Horizon League Regular Season and Tournament Titles. Forward Bojan Kawecki (10g, 5a) and midfielder Pablo Kawecki (9g, 4a) add punch to the attack. Look for senior midfielder Jannis Schmidt to set the pace for the Vikings. Losses to Marshall 3-1 and Akron 4-0 tend to indicate that Cleveland State will have a tough time matching up against Pitt.
Pittsburgh – This is a good Pitt team but their play has been inconsistent at times. Junior midfielders Filip Mirkovic (3g, 12a) and Noel Valentin (7g, 3a) and forward Bertin Jacquesson (5g, 3a) are playmakers while graduate student midfielder Jackson Walti is the guy who holds everything together.
This one might be close for a while but look for Pitt to take control as the game progresses.
Western Michigan (14-2-2) at Louisville (9-5-3)
Western Michigan’s two losses were to Butler 2-0 and Akron 1-0. They have wins over three teams out of the Big Ten and topped Akron 2-1 in the MAC Championship match at Akron.
Forwards Charlie Sharp (10g, 8a), Eric Conerty (3g, 10a) and Dylan Sing (5g, 6a) combine to give the Broncos a multi-dimensional attack that has produced a total of 40 goals. Senior back Daniel Nimick (7g, 1a) and graduate student goalkeeper Hunter Morse are key elements of a Western Michigan defense that has allowed only eight goals.
The balance that Western Michigan has between offensive firepower and defensive stability makes them a difficult opponent to face.
Louisville has the advantage of having honed their skills against a very competitive slate of ACC opponents and the plus of playing at home.
The Cardinals come into this one off a 3-0 loss to Wake Forest on the road and a 2-1 loss to Virginia Tech. Sophomore midfielder Sander Roed (0g, 8a) is the catalyst and forward Aboubacar Camara (5g, 1a) the key to Louisville’s attack. Macoumba Ba (3g, 2a) is the X-Factor on the offensive side of the ball for the Cardinals.
UC Riverside (8-7-4) at Portland (12-2-3)
UC Riverside is among what seems like more than the usual number of teams this year who struggled early on before they jelled as a team. The Highlanders were a dismal 1-6-2 at the end of September. They have since gone 7-1-2, won the Big West Regular Season Title and punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament by topping CSUN 4-1 and UC Santa Barbara 1-0 to win the Big West Conference Tournament.
Brendan Clark (7g, 7a) and Noah Lopez (6g, 5a) are the keys on the offensive side of the ball for the Highlanders. Carlos Gonzalez, the 2022 Big West Co-Goalkeeper of the Year, will no doubt have a busy evening between the pipes for UC Riverside.
This is a different Highlander team than the one that started the season but they will have to play their best soccer of the year to have a chance of getting past Portland on the road in the friendly confines of Merlo Field.
Portland has wins over Seton Hall, UCLA and ties with Indiana and Denver. They also have an inexplicable 4-1 loss to San Diego which hopefully served as a wakeup call. Midfielder Brandon Cambridge (12g, 6a) is the go-to guy in Portland’s attack. Senior transfer CJ Tibbling (7g, 2a) adds another dangerous element to the attack.
This is a good Pilot team but they can’t afford to look past anyone if they want to make a deep run.
High Point (10-4-5) at North Carolina (8-5-5)
High Point won the Big South Tournament by topping USC Upstate and rival Campbell 2-0. They have a signature 2-1 win over Maryland on the road and a notable early season 1-1 tie with Georgetown on the road. Noah Holmes (10g, 0a) is the main man in HPU’s attack while back Finn McRobb and goalkeeper Holden Trent are key ingredients on the defensive side of the ball.
High Point will arrive in Chapel Hill believing they can win. It all comes down to whether or not they will be able to finish the opportunities that come their way.
North Carolina has had a good but by no means vintage Tar Heel season. Defensive midfielder Milo Garvanian (4g, 4a) is the guy who will set the pace for a UNC team that has scored a total of 19 goals while allowing 15. Carlos Somoano will have his team prepared and ready to play but it will take a total team effort without any lapses in play for a Tar Heel team that has a slim margin for error to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this year.
Ohio State (10-3-5) at Wake Forest (14-5-0)
Ohio State returns to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2015. The Buckeyes looked to be a team that had a shot at one of the 16 seeds or at least a first-round game at home but a 3-2 loss to Wisconsin in their final regular season game and a 2-1 loss to Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals didn’t help their standing. Regardless the very good news is that Ohio State improved to 10-3-5 in 2022 compared to 6-9-1 in 2021 and 3-6-1 records in 2020.
Fourteen different players have scored for the Buckeyes with midfielders Laurence Wootton (5g, 2a) and Xavier Green (4g, 4a) leading the way. Goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin has played a key role in the success the Buckeyes have had this year. Look for his play between the pipes to be a critical success factor in the game with Wake Forest. This looks to be one of the most competitive first round matchups.
Wake Forest is hard to beat when they come out on the front foot and are able to dictate the tempo of a match. The Demon Deacons are coming off a rare 2-0 loss at home to Clemson in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. During that game they had trouble getting their attack in gear. When Wake Forest is able to settle into a rhythm that enables them to apply pressure while not leaving themselves vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball, they are hard to beat.
Midfielder Roald Mitchell is Wake Forest’s top goal scorer but don’t be surprised if someone else steps forward to come up with the big play needed on the offensive side of the ball.
Memphis (9-5-4) at Saint Louis (11-4-3)
Memphis was awarded an large berth after a season that included notable wins over SMU 1-0 and Tulsa 2-1 and a 1-1 tie with Lipscomb to return to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2004. Sophomore Colin Welsh, a 2022 AAC Second Team selection, is a solid presence in goal. Freshman forward Alberto Cruz (8g, 0a) with three game winning goals has emerged as the main threat on the offensive side of the ball along with sophomore forward Lineker Rodrigues dos Santos (6g, 4a).
The fact that the Tigers are 2-4-1 on the road is not a good sign for a team that is good but has a low margin for error. Much will hinge on the ability of backs Cameron Weston, Hayden Anderson, Kim Jackson and Cesar Sancho to limit Saint Louis’ opportunities to score.
Saint Louis began the season with a lot of gaps to plug. As a result, they experienced a learning curve that included losses to Louisville, Lipscomb and SMU before they began to jell as a team. The Billikens are undefeated in their last eight games and have been doing a good job of finding a way to win the close games as they did in the A-10 Tournament when they advanced past Massachusetts 1-0, Dayton in a penalty kick shootout after the contest was tied 1-1, and Loyola Chicago in the championship match via penalty kick shootout after the contest was scoreless at the end of 110 minutes of play.
Senior midfielder John Klein (7g, 5a) is the guy who makes good things happen for the Billikens. Transfer back Alberto Suarez (5g, 0a) also has big play ability. Redshirt sophomore Christian Buendia and senior Lane Warrington are part of a very good Saint Louis midfield. Senior goalkeeper Carolos Tofern was a difference maker in goal for Saint Louis in the A-10 Tournament.
The Billikens have been living on the edge and will need to find a way to finish more of the opportunities that come their way in order to make a sustained run in the NCAA Tourney.
Marshall (10-3-3) at Elon (11-4-3)
Marshall looked to be a team that had a shot at a seed and if not at least a first-round game at home but an unexpected 1-0 loss to James Madison in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament derailed their chance to pick up a few resume building wins that would have enhanced their standing.
Forwards Matthew Bell (9g, 4a), the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, and Milo Yosef (8g,3a), the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and midfielder Joa Souza (7g, 2a) all have big play ability while Oliver Semmle and back Gabriel Alves anchor a Marshall defense that has only allowed 12 goals.
This team is not as strong or opportunistic from top to bottom as the 2020-2021 team that won the National Championship but they have a shot at making a run if they play to their potential. The loss to James Madison could prove to be a wakeup call for what should be a motivated Thundering Herd team.
Elon was awarded an at-large berth after they were topped 2-1 at home in the final of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
Solid play on the defensive side of the ball has kept Elon in every game they have played while a balanced attack led by Mason Duval (7g, 0a) has produced a total of 27 goals. Fifteen different Elon players have scored so far for a Phoenix squad that returns to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2015. An impressive Elon backline anchored in goal by Ryan Bilichuk has only allowed a total of 11 goals.
This is a veteran Elon team with a lot of grit on both sides of the ball but in order to prevail over Marshall in a contest that could be determined by a single goal, they must put in a full 90 minutes of play and continue to do the things well that they have done all year without getting caught up in the hype that often surrounds NCAA Tournament play.
Rutgers (10-4-6) at Penn (12-2-2)
Rutgers under the direction of Jim McElderry managed to fly under the radar on the national scene for most of the year but it is pretty hard to look past a Scarlet Knight team that topped Wisconsin, Ohio State and Indiana to win the program’s first ever Big Ten Championship.
Forward MD Myers (13g,7a), the Big Ten Player of the Year, is the catalyst and go-to player in the attack. Myers who transferred in from High Point has been a difference maker for the Scarlet Knights. Midfielders Temple Jackson (6g, 8a) and Jason Bouregy (3g, 8a) are among others who had punch to the attack.
The Scarlet Knights have been porous at times on the defensive side of the ball so look for the play of backs Thomas DeVisio, Chris Tiao, Hugo Le Guennec and Joey Zalinsky and goalkeeper Ciaran Dalton to be the factor that determines how far Rutgers goes in the NCAA Tournament.
Pennsylvania secured the program’s first Ivy League title since the 2013 season with a 6-1-0 mark in conference play.
There is a lot of excitement around a Penn team that is powered on the offensive side of the ball by sophomore forward Stas Korzeniowski (10g, 8a), the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, and senior forward Ben Stitz (9g, 7a).
Seniors Isaac McGinnis and Nick Schimbeno (1g, 0) provide a solid presence in the midfield while defenders Ben Do, Leo Burney and Jack Rosener and netminder Nick Christofferson are key ingredients in a Quaker defense that has only allowed a total of 12 goals and has played a key role in the success that Penn has enjoyed this year.
Fairleigh Dickinson (10-5-3) at Maryland (10-3-5)
Fairleigh Dickinson won the NEC Regular Season and Tournament Titles. Count the Knights among the teams that looked to be on the ropes but rebounded from a five game losing streak and a dismal 2-5-1 record to go on a ten game unbeaten streak.
FDU boasts junior Hugo Bacharach, the NEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, and senior Spencer King, the NEC Goalkeeper of the Year and All-NEC senior midfielder Jordan Alonge (4g, 2a). Freshman forward Jaime Barbero who was named the NEC Tournament MVP after scoring both of FDU’s goals in the Knights 2-1 win over St. Francis Brooklyn in the NEC Championship match adds another dimension to the offense.
Maryland won the Big Ten Regular season title for the first time since 2016 but came up short in the Big Ten Tournament when they were topped 2-1 by Indiana in the semifinals. The Terps were subsequently awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The Terps are 21 in the last RPI but it is puzzling how a team with wins over New Hampshire, Virginia, Georgetown, Ohio State and Rutgers did not earn a seed.
All-Big Ten First Team selections forward Joshua Bolma (2g, 7a), midfielder Malcolm Johnson (5g, 6a) and defenders Nick Richardson (3g, 7a) and Chris Rindov (2g, 1a) are vital parts of a very good Maryland team. Niklas Neumann gives the Terps a very experienced presence in goal. Maryland is hard to beat when they are able to control the temp of a game and apply pressure but they have a low margin for error when they can’t.
Quinnipiac (13-4-3) at Vermont (13-3-2)
Quinnipiac under head coach Eric Da Costa won the MAAC Conference Tournament to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
This is an attack-oriented Bobcat team led by senior forwards David Bercedo (14g, 7a), Tomas Svecula (9g, 4a) and Brage Aasen (4g, 7a) that is capable of scoring in multiples when they get into a rhythm. Defender Alexander Stjernegaard (4g, 12a), the MAAC Rookie of the Year, adds another dimension to an attack that has produced a total of 54 goals.
Whether a high-powered Bobcat offense can prosper against the teams that they will face in the NCAA Tournament remains to be seen. It should be interesting.
Vermont had a final RPI of 15 but apparently derailed what had appeared to be a good shot at one of the top sixteen seeds when they concluded regular season play with a scoreless tie with Albany followed by a 1-0 loss to Albany in the semifinals of the America East Conference Tournament.
The Catamounts feature an attack led by Alex Nagy (7g, 7a) and Max Murray (7g, 5a) that scored a total of 36 goals and a solid defense anchored by senior back Noah Egan and fifth year goalkeeper Nate Silveira that held opponents to a total of 10 goals.
This is a very good Catamount team but they have periodically had trouble creating and finishing scoring opportunities which has the potential to shorten the duration of their stay in the NCAA Tournament.
California Baptist (10-6-4) at UCLA (10-6-1)
California Baptist defied the odds in their first year of eligibility when they won the WAC Soccer Tournament and the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament that goes with it by advancing past San Jose State in a match that came down to a penalty kick shootout after it was scoreless at the conclusion of regulation and overtime. The number five seeded Lancers advanced past number four seed Utah Valley 3-1 and number one seed Air Force 2-0 to get to the championship contest against San Jose State.
Forwards Bryan Iliohan (7g, 7a) and Luis Mueller (7g, 6a) combine to give the Lancers a solid one-two punch up-top. Graduate Student Brian Gonzalez (0g, 5a) and junior Georg Bjarnason (0g, 3a) add stability and playmaking ability in the midfield. Defense rules in the NCAA Tournament which means that the Cal Baptist backline of senior Thomas Beecham, junior Antonio Gomez and sophomore David Cordes among others along with netminder junior Nolan Premack will have to bring their “A” game in order for Coe Michaelson’s Lancers to keep their magical ride alive.
UCLA has played everyone close with their play on the defensive side of the ball keeping them within striking distance in every game. The Bruins have held opponents to a total of 15 goals. They have only allowed an opponent to score more than one goal in three contests. It is noteworthy that those contests were a 3-2 loss to Grand Canyon, a 2-0 loss to Portland and a 3-2 loss to Washington.
UCLA has a good but by no means explosive attack that has produced a total of 22 goals. Forwards Kevin Diaz (3g, 2a), Jose Contrell (3g, 3a) and Constantinos Michaelides and midfielder Riley Ferch (3g, 2a) are their top goal scorers. UCLA’s defense anchored bay backs Tommy Silva (1g, 7a), Aaron Edwards, Pietro Grassi and Grayson Doody and sophomore goalkeeper Nate Crockford has held opponents to one goal or less in 11 of their last 12 games.
If UCLA gets on the board first, they are a hard team to beat but it they have to play from behind they are in trouble.
San Diego (8-4-6) at Denver (13-2-5)
San Diego earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament by virtue of winning the West Coast Conference regular season race with a 6-0-1 mark in conference play that included a huge 4-1 over Portland. The Toreros who were picked to finish in the number seven spot in the conference’s preseason poll secured their first WCC Championship since 2015 and return to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2014.
San Diego comes into the NCAA Tournament on a five-game winning streak during which time they have outscored opponents 15 to 3. Senior midfielder Mason Tunbridge (6g, 5a) is among the keys on the offensive side of the ball. Junior Rhys Gourdie (1g, 1a) is a solid force in the midfield while junior back Trevor Dillon and senior netminder Jason Dubrovich anchor a defense that has allowed a total of 20 goals while posting seven shutouts.
Denver has impressive on the road wins over Maryland 2-0 and Virginia 2-0 and as well as ties with Georgetown 1-1 and Pittsburgh 2-2. The Pioneers come into the NCAA Tournament on a 12-game unbeaten streak during which they are 9-0-3 including a 1-0 win over Omaha and a 3-0 win over Kansas City in the Summit League Tournament.
Center backs Jason Belloli and Trevor Wright and outside backs Jake Mecham and Rowan Wynne, the Summit League Defender of the Year, and goalkeeper Isaac Nehme anchor a solid Denver defense that has held opponents to a total of only 12 goals. Midfielder Sam Bassett (7g, 6a) is a key ingredient in a Pioneer attack that has produced a total of 39 goals. Junior Ben Smith (0g, 2a), the Summit League Midfielder of the Year, will set the pace for the Pioneers.
Seton Hall (7-3-7) at New Hampshire (14-4-0)
Seton Hall earned an at-large berth after their season came to an abrupt stop when the Pirates were taken to the woodshed in a 6-0 loss to Creighton in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. The six goals allowed was atypical of a normally stout Pirate defense led by backs Luca Dahn and Johannes Pex and goalkeeper Hannes Ronnholmen.
Senior midfielder Quenzi Huerman (7g, 4a) is Seton Hall’s leading goal scorer. The Pirates have scored a total of 21 goals and allowed 22 on the season. Combine that with the fact that Seton Hall has seven ties and you get a team that has a slim margin for error.
It would be foolish to look past the Pirates under head coach Andreas Lindberg. However, with the exception of an early season 1-0 win over Oregon State they have had trouble securing wins against their more competitive opponents which does not bode well for sustained success in the one and done environment of the NCAA Tournament.
New Hampshire won their fourth consecutive America East Conference Regular Season title and the America East Conference Tournament to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
This is an experienced Wildcat team with the type of balance between offensive productivity (34 goals) and defensive tenacity (9 goals allowed and 11 shutouts) that makes them a dangerous opponent to face. It is an added plus that New Hampshire is 9-1-0 when playing at home.
The Wildcats have a midfield that includes Yannick Bright (2g, 1a), Eli Goldman (8g, 1a) and Johan von Knebel (0g, 7a) that can hold their own with anyone. Moise Bombito (4g, 0a) and Nils Buchwalder (1g, 0a) and senior goalkeeper Jassem Koleilat anchor the defense. Forwards Chris Pinkham (0g, 5a), Tola Showunmi (3g, 1a) and Paul Meyer (5g, 1a) provide additional punch to the attack.
Navy (7-4-9) at Georgetown (11-5-3)
Navy earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament field by winning the Patriot League Tournament. The Midshipmen return to the NCAA field for the first time since 2013.
Navy will look to David Jackson (6g, 3a), the Patriot League Midfielder of the Year, and forward Baba Kallie (4g, 3a) for offensive productivity. Look for sophomore Noah Ward (1g, 4a) and junior Cristian Coelho to add stability and consistency in the midfield. Senior back JD Wagner and sophomore goalkeeper Pierce Holbrook are among the key ingredients on the defensive side of the ball for the Midshipmen.
Navy has a low margin for error so much will depend on their ability to come up with the big plays needed to prevail on the offensive side of the ball while also playing stout defense for a full 90 minutes.
Georgetown was among the teams that entered the season with a large number of key gaps to fill due to departures. The Hoyas opened the season with a 1-4-2 record but became one of the more than usual number of teams this year that turned things around as the season progressed. The Hoyas won the Big East Regular Season title but their 11-game unbeaten streak surprisingly came to an end when they were upset 3-0 by Creighton in the Big East Tournament championship match.
Senior Aidan Rocha was named the Big East Midfielder of the Year while senior Daniel Wu was named the Big East Defender of the Year. Midfielder Jack Panayotou (7g, 3a) is Georgetown’s top goal scorer. Forward Marlon Tabora (5g, 7a) has big play ability and could give the Hoyas the extra punch they need to make a deep run in the tournament. Junior back Kenny Nielsen and sophomore back Kieran Sargeant add experience and stability on the defensive side of the ball.
Look for the play of junior goalkeeper Ryan Schewe to be a key factor in the level of success the Hoyas have in the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri State (12-1-4) at Creighton (9-4-6)
Missouri State won the MVC regular season with a 6-0-2 mark in conference play and followed that up by winning the MVC Tournament.
Missouri State MVC First Team selections include forward Jesus Barea (4g, 3a), the Player of the Year, Nicolo Mulatero (8g, 4a) the Forward of the Year, Jack Denton the Midfielder of the Year, defenders Javier Martin Gil and Lewis Green and midfielder Kari Yari (4g, 5a). Missouri State was solid on both sides of the ball during the season with an attack that netted a total of 37 goals and a defense that only allowed a total of 9 goals.
The issue is how well the Bears will stack up against the competitive teams that they will face in the NCAA Tournament. Missouri State’s lone loss was a 3-0 defeat at home to Tulsa on September 20. Tulsa is the only team that the Bears played this year that is in the NCAA Tournament field.
Creighton won the Big East Tournament title by defeating number three seed Xavier 2-1, number two seed Seton Hall 6-0 and number one seed Georgetown 3-0.
An explosive and multi-dimensional Bluejay offense has produced a total of 53 goals with forward Duncan McGuire leading the way with 19 goals including four game-winners. Jackson Castro (9g, 8a), Owen O’Malley (7g, 5a) and Giorgio Probo (4g, 11a) are among others who make Creighton a tough team to contain. Graduate Student goalkeeper Paul Krause anchors a Bluejay defense that has allowed a total of 26 goals.
Creighton is capable of scoring in multiples but a 3-2 loss to Saint Louis, a 2-1 loss to Georgetown, a 3-1 loss to Xavier and a 4-2 loss to Providence during regular season play substantiates that the Bluejays must tighten things up on the defensive side of the ball in order to make a sustained run in the NCAA Tournament.