Photo by Fresno Fuego
With regular seasons coming to a close and conference tournaments kicking into action, there's plenty of exciting NCAA DI and DII action this weekend.
Friday starts things off with two DII matches in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament. In the earlier match, unbeaten No. 1 seed Palm Beach Atlantic will try and take down No. 4 seed Rollins College in their semifinal match in the SSC Tournament. Later on, it'll be No. 2 seed Colorado Mesa taking on No. 3 seed Fort Lewis in the RMAC Tournament semifinals, with both teams looking to book their date in the finals.
Saturday continues the action with a pair of regular-season closing matches in NCAA DII and NCAA DI. In the mid-afternoon, it'll be Notre Dame de Namur who welcomes unbeaten Cal Baptist, with the latter needing a draw to secure a share of the conference title, and a win earning them the title outright. Elsewhere, Georgia State and Coastal Carolina clash atop the Sun Belt Conference, with the winner taking the regular-season title and earning the valuable No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament.
Finally, Sunday closes out proceedings with the opening of the Big Ten Conference Tournament quarterfinals, as Maryland and Wisconsin clash as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. The Terrapins will be seeking vindication as their loss on the last day of the season saw Michigan snatch the regular-season title away, while the Badgers will try and pull off the upset.
The weekend begins with Sunshine State Conference Tournament action as Palm Beach Atlantic take on Rollins.
Palm Beach Atlantic enter the second of two semifinals taking place on Friday as heavy favorites. The No. 1 seed in the tournament boast a brilliant 14-0-2 record and are rolling in on a 10-match winning streak ongoing since September 27. Bolstered in the midfield by South Georgia Tormenta FC’s Charlie Dennis, the Sailfish will try and make it 11 in a row and earn a place in the tournament finals with a win Friday night.
Rollins, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, know they enter as underdogs but also remain anything but a pushover for Palm Beach Atlantic. Rollins boast their own impressive 10-4-1 record, and have won five of their last six matches. They’ve already gotten the better of Florida Tech in the tournament, winning their quarterfinals match by a 3-2 score, and will try and pull off the upset of the season by handing the Sailfish their first loss and advancing to the finals.
A second conference tournament semifinal also graces Friday’s schedule as Colorado Mesa welcome Fort Lewis in the RMAC tournament.
Colorado Mesa earned a No. 2 seed in the conference by finishing with a strong 15-2-1 record overall, with their conference record just behind Colorado Mines. It was enough to earn them a bye to the semifinals, where they now wait for Fort Lewis. Led by FC Tucson midfielder Moshe Perez, the Mavericks will need a bit more of his team-leading 13 goals and seven assists in order to see off Fort Lewis and book a finals spot.
Fort Lewis are no pushover in the RMAC, finishing third in the conference with an impressive 10-5-4 mark. They took on No. 6 seed Regis in their opening match of the tournament, dominating their opposition on the way to a 3-0 victory. They know that Colorado Mesa is far from invincible, as the Skyhawks earned a 1-1 draw against the Mavericks earlier in the season. They’ll hope to shock them again and earn a place in the final with a win on Friday.
Saturday afternoon brings the action back with a potential title-clinching match for Cal Baptist as they visit Notre Dame de Namur.
Notre Dame de Namur can’t catch the top of the conference, sitting six points back in third place, but can still play spoilers to Cal Baptist’s currently-unbeaten season. Though they fell last time out to Concordia Irvine, they had previously won seven straight matches before that and boast a fantastic 13-2-2 record. It’ll be a difficult match, but Notre Dame de Namur is more than capable of pulling off an upset.
Cal Baptist enter the match with the knowledge that a draw guarantees them a share of the conference championship with Point Loma, but only a win secures them as the lone champions and guarantees an automatic bid to the NCAA DII Tournament. Fresno Fuego midfielder Joey Chica has led the Lancers all season, and will hope to lead them to a final victory and conference title, along with securing an unbeaten season with a win as the team currently sits at 15-0-2.
Saturday’s action continues with a major clash between the top two teams in the Sun Belt Conference as Georgia State take on Coastal Carolina.
With their 11-5-1 record, and 3-0-1 conference mark, Georgia State currently sit in first-place entering their final regular season match before the conference tournament. Just a point above Coastal Carolina, a draw would be enough to secure them the regular season-title as well as the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, and to do so at home would be an additional sweetness.
Coastal Carolina sit one point behind Georgia State in conference play, and remain the only team able catch the Panthers in the Sun Belt. If they want to emerge on top, they’ll need to beat the team currently there as only a win will jump them to the No. 1 position, a conference title, and No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament. Reading United AC forward Frantzdy Pierrot will try to make sure that happens as the Chanticleer’s try and play spoiler in Georgia this weekend.
Sunday’s action wraps up the weekend with a Big Ten Conference Tournament clash between Maryland and Wisconsin.
Maryland finished fourth in the conference during the regular season, but with a 5-1-2 record, could’ve taken the top spot and regular-season title had they not lost to eventual-champions Michigan in the final match of the year. As a result, the team fell to the No. 4 seed in the extremely difficult Big Ten conference tournament and is now set to take on No. 5 Wisconsin in the quarterfinals. Tampa Bay Rowdies U23 midfielder Andrew Samuels leads the Terrapins in the center, and he’ll need to be on point to secure advancement for Maryland.
Wisconsin found themselves on the outside of the powerful top-four during the Big Ten regular season, without a shot at the regular-season conference title. But the Badgers still played well, earning an 8-4-4 record on the season and securing a No. 5 seed in the tournament. There they’ll clash with a very strong Maryland team who blew a chance to win the conference on the final day of the season. Led by Chicago FC United forwards Thomas Barlow and Chris Mueller, the Badgers will try and pull of what would be a significant upset and advance to the semifinals with a win.