EMMA KNIGHT / THE EAGLE
This year’s seniors on the AU men’s soccer team have done a lot throughout their career at AU, but one accomplishment has eluded them: a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles have played for the Patriot League Championship in each of the last three seasons, falling all three times. Last year, AU hosted the tournament after clinching the Patriot League regular-season title, but dropped a 2-0 decision to Colgate.
2012 looks to be different.
“We’ve challenged our team to finish the job next week,” AU head coach Todd West said.
Once again, the Eagles have clinched the PL regular-season title and will host the tournament with semifinal action starting Nov. 9 at 11 a.m. when the Eagles take on Bucknell.
AU has finished with its first overall winning record since 2009. But more importantly, the Eagles finished the season undefeated (5-0-2) against conference foes for the first time in program history.
The Eagles have also shown resiliency by winning two conference games in overtime, including a come-from-behind win against Navy Oct. 20.
One key to AU’s success will be goalkeeper Billy Knutsen. He earned Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week honors for three weeks in a row while leading the conference with six shutouts, including one in the season finale against Holy Cross.
Knutsen, along with the AU defense, has been responsible for allowing the fewest goals, 16, in the Patriot League.
“These are going to be some tough games, and we are going to have to grind through them,” AU’s Seth Goldman said of the upcoming tournament.
Offensively, the Eagles will need a strong effort out of their “Big Three” of Colin Seigfreid, Alassane Kane and Dale McDonald.
“The big key in those tight games is to get the first goal,” West said. “It takes the pressure off of you and puts it on the other team.”
Seigfreid leads the Patriot League in points with 17 and is tied for sixth in the conference with five goals. Kane leads the Eagles in scoring and is tied for second in the PL with six goals. McDonald has chipped in five goals in his first year at AU.
Momentum should be on AU’s side as it enters the tournament with four straight wins.
West announced that the team took Sunday and Monday off to rest up and recover for the weekend’s tournament.
The Eagles are looking for their first Patriot League Tournament title since 2004, and fourth NCAA Tournament appearance under West.