Patriot League men’s soccer preview
Regular season champion Eagles look to capture NCAA bid for the first time since 2004
With its 3-1 victory over Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on Saturday, the AU men’s soccer team clinched the regular season Patriot League championship and the right to host the semifinals and finals of the Patriot League Tournament.
The Eagles finished the regular season with a record of 7-1-1 in the Patriot League and 10-5-4 overall. The team is also atop the Patriot League regular season standings for the fifth time since joining in 2001. AU and Loyola University Maryland received byes to the semifinals as the top two seeds. AU will play sixth seeded Bucknell University on Nov. 11 at 11:00 am while Loyola plays third seeded Colgate at 1:30 pm. The winners of the semifinals will play on Nov. 13.
AU last won the Patriot League tournament in 2004, defeating Lehigh 1-0 before advancing to the NCAA second round. The Eagles have reach the Patriot League tournament final five times since 2004, most recently in 2015 when Lehigh defeated the Eagles 2-1.
AU defeated Bucknell 3-2 in overtime during the regular season in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania on Oct. 22. Senior midfielder Panos Nakhid and junior forwards Joel Hart and Danny Kaiser scored in the victory over the Bison. Bucknell finished the regular season with a record of 9-8-2, 4-4-1, and advanced to semifinals after defeating third seeded BU on penalty kicks on Tuesday.
Bucknell is led by senior midfielder and Patriot League first team selection Sebastiaan Blickman the Patriot League’s highest point-scorer during the regular season with ten goals and four assists. The Bison’s scoring offense ranked second in the Patriot League with 1.45 goals per game.
AU’s balanced attack finished the regular season with the Patriot League’s top scoring offense, averaging 1.895 goals per game, with twelve different players recording goals. Senior forward Joe Irola led the team with 17 point and six goals while senior midfielder Dale Ludwig recorded five goals. Ludwig, Nakhid and senior defender Michael Cherry were named to the Patriot League First Team.
Additionally, Ludwig was named the Patriot League Midfielder of the Year and Nakhid was named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. Senior defender Jake Garcia was selected to the Patriot League second team while senior goalkeeper Lucas Belanger was named to the Patriot League Third Team after finishing the regular season with a 1.16 goals against average in Patriot League play and six shutouts in league play.
Second seeded Loyola is making its first appearance in the Patriot League tournament since joining the league in 2013. The Greyhounds finished with a record of 8-6-3 and 6-1-2 in the Patriot League after finishing the 2015 season without a league win. Loyola coach Steve Nichols was named Patriot League Coach of the Year, senior Matt Sanchez was named Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year and forward Brian Saramago was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year.
Sanchez finished the season with a 1.24 goals against average, five shutouts and a save percentage of 0.744. Saramango finished the regular season with 21 points on nine goals and three assists, the third highest point total in the league. Loyola defeated Colgate 1-0 in Baltimore during the regular season.