The NCAA tournament, the pinnacle for any team collegiate sport, offers the chance for players and programs to make a name for themselves.
Forty-eight schools make the big dance in collegiate men’s soccer, as 24 schools qualify as a result of winning their conference tournament and the other half receiving at-large bids. With no Atlantic 10 team in a good position to receive an at-large bid, it puts all the more pressure to win the conference tournament that starts this Saturday.
The top eight teams from the regular season from the 13-team conference moved onto the postseason, with the top four seeds hosting their quarterfinal matchups at their home fields this weekend. The semifinals will be at Jack Coffey Field at Fordham University on Friday, Nov. 15, and the final will be held two days later at the same field.
The University of Rhode Island grabbed the top seed after going 7-1 in conference play. They are led by winger Edvin Akselsen, who is third in the NCAA with 10 assists, and Stavros Zarokostas, who has six goals and five assists in his final season in Kingston.
Rhode Island, who won this tournament last year for the first time since 2006, got off to a slow start on the year as the team was winless in their first three games. Since then they have been one of the hottest teams in the country, going 12-1-1 in their last 14 games, including eight straight wins. Head Coach Gareth Elliott has his team primed and ready to defend their crown.
They’ll be matched up against the No. 8 seed Davidson Wildcats. The Wildcats went 3-5 in conference play, with their three wins against sides who did not make the conference tournament. They are coming off a 5-0 drubbing of Duquesne, the first time all season the team scored at least three goals. When these two sides met two weeks ago in Kingston, URI won 2-0.
Saint Louis University will host Fordham in the No. 4 v. No. 5 matchup. SLU was in line to take the top seed in the conference tournament before falling to Fordham at home last Saturday, a result that was just their second conference loss all season.
The Billikens shut out all of their opponents in their six conference wins this season, so the smash-and-grab nature of postseason soccer could propel them for a deep run. As for Fordham, the 2016 champions play an aggressive style that if they’re not careful could lead to giving up opportunities in big moments.
The lower half of the bracket is led by a familiar name. VCU backed up their preseason expectations with a second place finish in the conference, earning them a date with the George Mason Patriots. The two sides also met one week ago, with the Rams running out as 1-0 winners to spoil GMU’s senior night. George Mason let up the second most goals per game in the conference, a trend that bodes well for VCU strikers Biska Biyombo and Fiorre Mane. The Patriots only won four games on their schedule this year, but their overtime win against Dayton proves that they can’t be taken lightly.
The last matchup sees No. 3 Dayton square up against the La Salle Explorers. The Flyers have won their last six games, and carry the top three goal scorers in the conference. Likely A-10 Player of Year Jonas Fjeldberg led the conference with 10 goals to go along with nine assists, and his teammates, Kingsford Adjei and Toluwalase Oladeinbo, each scored eight. The Explorers won half of their conference games, but their last two have come on the road. La Salle will need to maintain good shape defensively and defend their set pieces well if they want to move on to the semifinals.
The A-10 Championship will begin this Saturday with Saint Louis vs Fordham at 2 p.m. All matches throughout the tournament can be streamed on ESPN+.