Eagles Ready For Thursday’s NCAA Tournament Showdown at USF
|Stats at a Glance||FGCU||USFM|
|Shots (on Goal)||5 (2)||9 (6)|
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Just four days removed from winning its second straight Atlantic Sun Championship, the FGCU men’s soccer team will travel to Tampa for the third time this season when it takes on USF in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Corbett Soccer Stadium.
General admission tickets into the 7 p.m. kick-off are free, while the game can also be seen for free online through a link on www.FGCUATHLETICS.com. The winner of Thursday night’s game will play host to No. 11 seed Tulsa on Sunday in the second round.
Thursday’s meeting will be the second this season and the fifth all-time between the two clubs. Then-No. 13 USF got the best of FGCU in Tampa, 3-0, on Sept. 25 in the Green and Blue’s non-conference finale. It will also be the Green and Blue’s fourth game at USF’s Corbett Stadium this year, as they defeated Conference USA foe South Carolina (3-0) and Iona (2-0) at the USF Tournament.
FGCU is the only current A-Sun team to win back-to-back championships, doing so in its first two years of postseason eligibility. The Eagles current eight-game win streak is the third longest in the nation behind Akron (14) and Creighton (10), and is tied for the longest in program history.
Currently No. 6 in the NSCAA South Region poll, the Eagles are in just the sixth season of the program’s existence, earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament in its first two years of postseason eligibility. In 2011, FGCU lost 1-0 in double-overtime at UCF.
A-Sun Freshman of the Year Felipe DeSousa (Vila Velha, Brazil/Wharton HS-FL), who went to Wharton High School in Tampa, leads the team with 15 points and a program single-season record seven goals, including five game-winners. DeSousa provided the golden goal in FGCU’s A-Sun semifinal double-overtime win against Lipscomb and was named to the All-Tournament team.
Sunday’s game-winning goal against Mercer in the 95th minute was the second in the last three games for sophomore Santiago Echeverri (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS), who was named the A-Sun Championship MVP. In the regular season finale showdown in Macon, Ga. against Mercer that decided the regular season champ and host of the A-Sun Tournament, Echeverri struck in the 52nd-minute with his first career game-winner in the 1-0 victory. He is second on the club with 10 points.
The youthful FGCU defense has been a big part of the team’s eight-game win streak, posting seven shutouts over that span. The backline features a pair of sophomores and three freshmen, as the current ground has started five straight games together allowing just one goal. Sophomore keeper Nathan Ingham (Ontario, Canada/Keswick HS) has logged every minute in net, leading the A-Sun with eight shutouts and has a 1.05 goals against average (GAA).
Although it didn’t qualify for the BIG EAST Tournament, USF (8-5-4, 2-3-3 BIG EAST) had the 24th toughest schedule in the nation this year, and finished with an RPI of 25. Five of the Bulls' last eight matches were against opponents whose RPI was in the top 43 in the country. In total, USF played nine of the top 43 teams in RPI and finished with a record of 4-3-2 in those contests. The Bulls have now made the NCAA tournament six straight times and they are led by sophomore midfielder Roberto Alterio who leads the team in goals (5) and is second in points (11).
Thursday’s contest will be USF’s first official game since it lost at DePaul on Oct. 26. To keep themselves ready for a possible NCAA Tournament at-large berth, the Bulls held an exhibition match against the U-17 U.S. National Team last Friday, defeating the team full of young stars, 2-0.
For in-game updates on Thursday, follow @FGCU_MSoccer on twitter.
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