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A Look At The First Round Contests In The 2017 NCAA Tourney – The Road To The College Cup

Wake Forest Region

Columbia (11-2-3) at William and Mary (11-4-5)  – William and Mary punched their ticket to the tourney by beating Hofstra, James Madison, and UNCW to win the CAA Tournament. Columbia was awarded an at-large berth after finishing regular season play in the number two spot in the Ivy League. The Lions are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tourney since 1993.

The outcome of the contest may hinge on whether Columbia can contain William and Mary forward Antonio Bustamante who has tallied fifteen of the Tribe’s thirty-seven goals to date and whether or not William and Mary can contain Columbia forward Arthur Bosua who has been responsible for twelve of the twenty-nine goals that the Lions have scored.  Both are explosive finishers who are capable of breaking open a contest. Columbia comes into the contest on a five-game win streak during which time they have outscored their opponents 14-0.  

Lipscomb (11-7-2) at Butler (12-4-2) – Lipscomb earned their first ever berth in the NCAA Tourney by advancing past NJIT in a penalty kick shootout, defeating FGCU 2-1, and by topping Jacksonville 2-1 to win the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.  Big East Conference Member Butler was awarded an at-large berth.  The Bulldogs won the Big East Regular Season Title with an 8-1-0 mark in league play but were upended by Xavier in the semifinals of the Big East Tourney in a match that was decided by a penalty kick shootout.

Lipscomb is led on the offensive side of the ball by the forward duo of Logan Paynter (9g, 5a) and Ivan Sakou (8g, 2a).  Both are capable playmakers who could keep the Bison’s magical ride alive. The fact that Lipscomb has allowed a total of thirty-three goals to date would indicate that the Bison are vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball.  As a result, their effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball will play a key role in determining their fate in the NCAA Tourney.

Butler’s Brandon Guhl (10g, 4a) and Lewis Suddick (5g, 8a) will test the Lipscomb defense from the get-go.  Last year Butler’s season came to an unexpected end when they were one and done in NCAA Tourney play after coming out on the short end of a penalty kick shootout at home against SIUE. That memory should help keep Butler from looking past Lipscomb. 

Cal State Fullerton (10-7-4) at Pacific (12-4-1) – Cal State Fullerton secured the Big West Conference’s automatic berth by defeating UC Riverside 2-1 and advancing past UC Davis in penalty kicks after the contest was tied 0-0 at the end of regulation and overtime. Pacific out of the West Coast Conference was awarded an at-large berth to earn the right to go dancing for the second season in a row.

Forward Samuel Goni  (9g, 1a) and midfielder Ross McPhie (7g, 3a) have been the go-to guys in Cal State Fullerton’s offense.  The Titan defense has played very well at times but they have also been very porous on occasion as reflected in a 5-0 loss to Portland and a 5-2 loss to UC Santa Barbara. Senior back Corentin Ohlmann and sophomore goalkeeper Paul-Andre Guerin are the guys who will set the pace for the Cal State Fullerton defense. 

Senior netminder Curtis Goldsmith and backs Tristan Blackman and Wouter Verstraaten anchor a bend but don’t break Pacific defense that has been hampered at times with costly lapses in play.  This one is capable of going either way with the edge going to the side that is able to settle into their rhythm and control the run of play.

Mercer (7-8-6) at Coastal Carolina (12-6-1) – Mercer punched their ticket for the second year in a row by defeating Woffard 2-1, advancing past ETSU in penalty kicks, and topping UNCG in penalty kicks after the contest was tied 1-1.  Coastal Carolina defeated Howard 2-1 and Georgia State 2-0 to win the Sun Belt Tournament and the automatic berth that accompanies it. 

Mercer struggled early on in the season but the Bears have rebounded to play very well down the home stretch.  Senior forward Will Bagrou (12g, 3a) is a prime timer who is capable of taking a game over.  Redshirt senior Jeremy Booth is coming off an outstanding performance in goal during the Southern Conference Tournament.  Mercer has displayed a lot of grit of late which is a big plus but lack of consistency has hampered their play this year. Whether or not they can continue to come up with the big plays and a full ninety minutes of play as they did in the Southern Conference Tournament remains to be seen. 

Senior Frantzdy Pierrot (8g, 3a) is among several players who provide firepower and big play ability to the Coastal Carolina offense.  The Chanticleers picked up the pace of their game in mid-October when they upset Old Dominion and Maryland on the road.  Coastal is on a nine-game winning streak but they could be in trouble if they come out flat and allow Mercer to settle in and control the pace of the contest. 

Louisville Bracket

Seattle (14-3-4) at Washington (12-6-1) – Seattle secured the Western Athletic Conference’s automatic berth by advancing past CSU Bakersfield 3-0, advancing past UNLV in a penalty kick shootout, and topping San Jose State 3-1.  Washington was awarded an at-large berth after a third place finish in Pac-12 regular season play.

Seattle is very balanced on the offensive side of the ball with Junior midfielder Sergio Rivas (7g, 5a) and senior midfielder Alex Roldan (6g, 7a) among several very capable finishers.  Redshirt junior Josh Adachi Sune who was named the WAC Tournament MVP and junior defender Nathan Aune are key elements in a solid Redhawk defense.  

Sophomore Handwalla Bwana (8g, 6a) is the go-to guy in a balanced Washington attack that has produced a total of thirty-eight goals while the Huskie defense has held opponents to a total of nineteen goals. Washington defeated Seattle 2-0 when the two teams squared off on September 24 during regular season play.  This match between cross-town rivals looks to be among the better first round contests. 

Chances are good that this one will ultimately be decided by who controls the middle third of the field.

UIC (11-5-3) at Wisconsin (10-4-5) – UIC punched their ticket by defeating Cleveland State 3-1 and Green Bay 2-0 in the Horizon League Tournament to secure the league’s automatic berth.  Wisconsin defeated Maryland 2-1, Michigan 4-0 and advanced past Indiana in a penalty kick shootout after the contest was tied at 0-0 after 110 minutes of play to win the Big Ten Tournament and the conference’s automatic berth.

Oscar Gonzalez (6g, 5a) and Jesus Perez (5g, 8a) are key ingredients in the UIC offense. Goalkeeper Sawyer Jackman and back Joel Leon are among key defenders. UIC will arrive in Madison fired up and believing they can win. However, they will have to bring their “A” game in order to keep in check a dangerous multi-dimensional Wisconsin attack powered by Chris Mueller (9g, 15a), Tom Barlow (8g, 5a), Mark Segbers (5g, 6a) and Mike Catalano (6g, 1a).

Goalkeeper Philipp Schilling, who is the reigning College Soccer News National Player of the Week, is coming off an outstanding performance between the pipes for the Badgers in the Big Ten Conference Tournament.  The biggest challenge for Wisconsin may be stabilizing after a very emotional Big Ten Tournament performance.  The Badgers have to quickly refocus and continue to play their game if they hope to make a meaningful run in the NCAA Tourney.

Colgate (10-10-1) at Massachusetts (15-3-3) – Colgate topped Bucknell 1-0, Loyola 3-2, and Holy Cross 1-0 to win the Patriot League Tournament and its automatic berth.  The Raiders became the first number six seed ever to win the  Patriot League tournament. Massachusetts defeated Saint Louis 1-0, Fordham 1-0 and VCU 3-1 to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament and an automatic ticket to the NCAA Tourney.  The Minutemen became the first team to win both the A-10 regular season title outright and the tournament title since 1991. 

Jared Stroud (3g, 11a) is the guy who sets the pace for Colgate with Aram Ouligian (7g, 2a) adding punch to a balanced Raider offense.  Colgate was very solid defensively during their run to the Patriot League Tournament title but during regular season play they were inconsistent with costly lapses that hampered them at times on the defensive side of the ball.

Massachusetts has a high-powered attack lead by forward Davis Smith (10g, 7a), midfielder Alex Desantis (9g, 6a) and forward Jack Fulton (6g, 3a) that will seek to exploit any weaknesses that exist. The Minutemen have found the back of the net a total of forty-three times.  Massachusetts topped Colgate 2-1 when the two teams faced each other back on September 16.  The Minutemen have been consistent on both side of the ball all year which bodes well for them in this contest but on the other hand a very gutsy Colgate team is playing their best soccer of the year right now and they have the added experience of having played in the NCAA Tourney last year.

San Francisco (9-8-0) at California (11-6-0) – San Francisco won the West Coast Conference regular season title and the conference’s automatic berth.  California finished in the number two spot in the Pac-12 regular season race and was awarded an at-large berth.

San Francisco comes into the contest on a five-game winning streak.  After going 3-7-0 at the end of September, the Dons gelled as a team in October and upped the level of their play.  Sean Bowman (9g, 2a), Leon Schwarzer (6g, 7a), and Santiago Digiuseppe (6g, 3a) have spearheaded a San Francisco attack that has netted a total of thirty-five goals. Improved play on the defensive side of the ball has played a key role in San Francisco’s success down the home stretch. 

Midfielders Jose Carrera-Garcia and Shinya Kadono have been catalysts on the offensive side of the ball for California while goalkeeper Drake Callender has anchored a Golden Bear defense that has held opponents to a total of twenty goals to date.

California topped San Francisco 3-2 when the two teams faced each other back on September 17 in San Francisco.  The Dons are a much better team now particularly on the defensive side of the ball which means this one could go either way. Both teams will feel the pressure of the one and done environment of the NCAA Tourney so look for the team that is able to stay focused on the task at hand, settle in, maintain possession, play their game, and get into their rhythm early on to pull away as the contest progresses.

North Carolina Bracket

Presbyterian (6-8-5) at UNCW (11-7-0) – Number six seeded Presbyterian defeated number three seed Campbell 2-1 and number two seed Radford and number one seed High Point in penalty kicks after both contests were scoreless after 110 minutes of play to claim the Big South Tournament title and the program’s first ever NCAA Tourney berth at the Division I level.  UNCW finished regular season play in the number two spot in the Colonial Athletic Association and was awarded an at-large berth.

Freshman forward Clement Vannier with five goals and two assists and sophomore forward Sergio Pinto with three goals and four assists lead the Presbyterian offense.  Eleven other Blue Hose players have found the back of the net at least once year to date. Presbyterian under the direction of head coach Jonathan Potter will have to continue to play spot on defense and take advantage of the few scoring opportunities that are likely to come their way in order to have a chance to keep their magical ride alive.

UNCW rocketed upward in the national polls throughout most of September with a signature win over North Carolina but they dropped out of the rankings when they lost four straight in October. The Seahawks are powered on the offensive side of the ball by forward Phillip Goodrum (7g, 4a).  Look for the Seahawks to be a bit cautious in the early going but to push the attack and take control as the match progresses.

Whoever scores first in this one will have a huge advantage.  UNCW should prevail but the longer the contest remains scoreless the greater the chance that the Blue Hose will pull off another upset.

Central Arkansas (8-10-1) at SMU (15-2-1) –  Central Arkansas won the Missouri Valley Conference’s automatic berth by advancing past Bradley in a penalty kick shootout after the contest was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and extra time and by edging regular season title winner Missouri State 1-0 in overtime to secure in the program’s first ever berth in the NCAA Tourney.  SMU punched their ticket by thumping Temple 4-0 and sliding past UCF 2-1 to win the American Athletic Conference Tournament and the league’s automatic berth.  The Mustangs also won the AAC regular season title.

Sophomore forward Niklas Brodacki (17g, 5a) is the main man in Central Arkansas’s offense.  Brodacki, who was named the MVC Offensive Player of the Year, is responsible for one-half of the thirty-four goals the Bears have scored to date. Central Arkansas will need to continue to maintain the intensity on the defensive side of the ball that they displayed in the MVC Tourney in order to have a chance of halting a multi-dimensional SMU attack.  

The Mustangs will enter the match on a ten-game unbeaten streak.  Redshirt senior goalkeeper Michael Nelson and senior backs Jordan Cano and Jared Rice anchor a stout SMU defense that has only allowed a total of ten goals so far this year.  The Mustang offense features sophomore forward Garrett McLaughlin (13g, 3a) and senior midfielder Mauro Cichero (9g, 7a).  Both are extremely dangerous finishers who will seek to exploit any weakness that might exist. 

SMU is a perfect 12-0-0 at home this year. While it is foolish to look past any opponent in NCAA Tournament play, chances are pretty good that SMU’s winning streak at home will remain intact in the first round of the NCAA Tourney.  

Saint Francis Brooklyn (14-4-1) at Fordham (12-5-2) – Saint Francis Brooklyn topped Robert Morris 3-0 and bulldozed LIU Brooklyn 5-0 to win the Northeast Conference Tourney and the automatic berth that goes with it. The Terriers also claimed the NEC regular season title.  Fordham out of the Atlantic 10 was awarded an at-large berth.

Saint Francis Brooklyn is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament having appeared in it four out of the past five seasons. The fact that senior backs Dominick Falanga and Collyns Laokandi and sophomore back Faouzi Tajeb along with senior goalkeeper Roberto Bazzichetto were all NEC First Team selections tells you that the Terriers can play defense.  Junior forward Ali Tunkara (8g, 2a) and Falanga (7g, 1a) are key factors on the offensive side of the ball for Saint Francis Brooklyn. 

Fordham is anchored in goal by junior Rashid Nuhu who has recorded ten shutouts.  The Rams have been solid on the defensive side of the ball as reflected in the fact that they have allowed a total of only fourteen goals.  Janos Loebe (7g, 9a) and Jannik Loebe (6g, 3a) are at the heart of a Fordham offense that has produced a total of twenty-six goals. 

This contest looks to be among one of the most interesting matchups in the first round of play.  This one is a toss-up so look for the play between the pipes and the ability of Saint Francis Brooklyn to contain Jannik and Janos Loebe to have a huge impact on the outcome.

Omaha (10-5-3) at FIU (11-1-4) – Omaha secured the Summit League’s automatic berth by winning the Summit League Tournament.  The Mavericks accomplished that by defeating Western Illinois 2-0 and advancing past regular season winner Denver 9-8 in penalty kicks after the contest was knotted at 1-1 at the end of 110 minutes of play.  FIU ended regular season play on a fifteen-game unbeaten streak but they were upset by Charlotte 3-1 in the CUSA Tournament. The Panthers were awarded an at-large berth.

Sophomore forward Elvir Ibisevic (9g, 1a), senior forward Emmanuel Hamzat (7g, 2a) and senior midfielder Xavier Gomez (5g, 8a) add diversity to an Omaha attack that has netted a total of twenty-seven goals. The Mavericks began the season with six straight wins but have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride since that time. Omaha played a competitive regular season schedule that included Creighton, Michigan and FGCU that should help prepare them for NCAA Tourney play. Unfortunately, they came out on the short end of each of those contests.  

The FIU attack, which has produced a total of forty-seven goals, features junior forward Santiago Patino (15g, 5a), senior midfielder Paul Marie (7g, 4a) and redshirt freshman midfielder Alessandro Campoy (7g, 8a).  

Both teams have capable playmakers so it will likely come down to which of them are able to come up with the big plays.  Give the home field advantage and the edge to FIU.

Indiana Bracket    

Air Force (14-2-3) at Virginia Tech (9-9-0) – After winning the WAC regular season title, Air Force was upset by San Jose State in the semifinals of the conference tournament. They were subsequently awarded an at-large berth based on the success they enjoyed during regular season play.  Virginia Tech out of the Atlantic Coast Conference was awarded an at-large berth after an up and down season that included winning and losing streaks.

Austin Dewing (7g, 7a) and Tucker Bone (5g, 7a) are the go-to guys in an Air Force attack that has produced a total of thirty goals.  Senior goalkeeper John Wendt and backs Klint Parker and James Sims are key elements in a very good Air Force defense that has allowed a total of only ten goals.  This is a very balanced and determined Air Force team. 

Senior forward Marcelo Acuna (11g, 2a) with five games winners is the guy that makes good things happen on the offensive side of the ball for the Hokies. He has netted one-half of the twenty-two goals that Virginia Tech has scored.  Ben Lundgaard is a prime timer in goal for the Hokies but the Virginia Tech defense has been very porous at times this year allowing a total of thirty-one goals.  

Virginia Tech has the big advantage of playing at home and Air Force the disadvantage of having to travel cross-country to play.  The key in this one is the ability of Air Force to contain Marcelo Acuna.  If they can successfully do that then they have a good shot at advancing to the second round. However, if Acuna gets in gear with a lot of scoring opportunities in the attacking third then it could be a long evening for the Falcons.

Albany (14-4-2) at Maryland (10-5-3) – Albany advanced past UMBC in a penalty kick shootout, topped regular season winner Vermont 1-0 and defeated UMass Lowell 1-0 in overtime to win the America East Tournament and an automatic berth.  Maryland out of the Big Ten was awarded an at-large berth. The Terps were among the most productive teams in the country through mid-October before closing out the season with five straight losses.

Albany has a balanced attack lead by forwards Nico Solabarrieta (8g, 6a) and Afonso Pinheiro (7g, 4a) and defender Daniel Krutzen (4g, 7a).  Junior Carlos Clark sets the pace in the middle of the park for Albany. The Great Dane defense has been solid holding opponents to a total of fifteen goals.

It is hard to get a handle on Maryland.  This is a very talented team that was considered among the top candidates just a few weeks ago for a trip to the Final Four.  Despite the five consecutive losses, the fact remains that Maryland is a team with the potential to rebound and get back on track. 

All things considered, this contest is up for grabs.

Fairfield (12-4-3) at New Hampshire (12-3-4) – Fairfield punched their ticket to the big dance by winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament Championship via advancing past Quinnipiac in a penalty kick shootout and a 1-0 win over Rider.  The Stags also claimed the MAAC regular season title.  New Hampshire secured the regular season America East title but lost to UMass Lowell 2-1 in the semifinals of the America East Tournament. They were subsequently awarded an at-large berth based on the body of their work during regular season play.

Fairfield is on a ten-game winning streak including three consecutive shutouts.  Forwards Ben Wignall (6g, 3a) and Don Junior-Bode (6g, 0a) and defender Agnus Hastings (4g, 1a) provide punch to the Stag attack. Freshman Gordon Botterill anchors a Fairfield defense that has steadily improved.  The Stags allowed ten of the nineteen goals that their opponents have placed in the back of the net during their first three contests.

Forward Robin Schmidt (6g, 1a) who was named the America East Striker of the Year is the go-to guy for a New Hampshire offense that includes eleven different players who have scored a goal. Graduate student goalkeeper Andrew Pesci and backs Otto Sahlen and Willis Griffith anchor a rock-solid New Hampshire defensive that has allowed a total of only eleven goals.  

Defense will likely rule in this one with the outcome decided by a one goal margin.  Lapses on the defensive side of the ball will prove costly in this contest.

N.C. State (8-5-4) at Old Dominion (12-5-2) –  N.C. State out of the Atlantic Coast Conference was awarded an at-large berth. Old Dominion topped South Carolina 2-0, Marshall 1-0, and Charlotte 1-0 to secure the CSUA Tournament Title and the conference’s automatic berth.

N.C. State under the direction of first year head coach George Kiefer returns to the NCAA Tourney field for the first time since 2009.  Manny Perez (5g, 4a) who was named the ACC Freshman of the Year has been a difference maker on the offensive side of the ball for the Wolfpack. Freshman midfielder David Loera (1g, 5a) has also been a catalyst for the Pack in the middle of the park.  Leon Krapf anchors the N.C. State defense in goal. The Wolfpack have signature wins over Louisville, Clemson, Syracuse, and UNCW and a tie with a Virginia so they are without a doubt capable of getting hot and making a run in the NCAA Tourney. However, they are also traveling in unchartered territory which can be problematic in the survive and advance environment of the NCAA Tourney.

Old Dominion returns to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2014.  The Monarchs feature an attack that includes four players with five or more goals. Freshman midfielder Brandon Perdue (6g, 4a) and junior forward Max Wilschrey (7g, 1a) lead the ODU attack. Sophomore goalkeeper Mertcan Akar gives ODU a very capable presence in goal.

Both N.C. State mentor Kiefer and ODU head coach Alan Dawson are veteran coaches with a lot of NCAA Tournament experience.  Both teams have young players in key roles so the difference could come down to which team is better able to maintain their composure, settle in, and play to its strengths.  


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