USF Classic Soccer Tournament Preview
The event, which starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday, brings five teams to Sioux Falls: Fort Hays State (men), Minot State (women), Simon Fraser (men) and the University of Winnipeg (men and women).
The USF women's team will play Minot State tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. and close out the season against the University of Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. All four men's teams will play on Saturday, with the winners and losers playing in the Sunday championship and third-place games, respectively.
The most intriguing match of the weekend takes place Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m., when the Cougar men will face the Clansmen of Simon Fraser University (16-0), the no. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division II.
"We are excited about playing Simon Fraser," said head men's soccer coach Paul Bennett. "It's not very often you get a chance to play the number one team, so we're excited and grateful that we get this opportunity in front of our home fans."
Simon Fraser is the first non-American institution to have its application accepted to go through the multi-year transition process of becoming an active member of the NCAA. In the past, the school, located in Burnaby, British Columbia and with an enrollment of 34,000 students, competed in both the NAIA and Canadian Interuniversity Sport system.
The Clansmen were an NAIA soccer power, collecting three national titles in five championship match appearances, but last year became the first school to embrace the opportunity of the NCAA D-II's 2008 decision to welcome Canadian institutions as members.
Currently in the provisional stage of the NCAA D-II transition (as are USF and Minot State), the SFU men's soccer program was the first-ever non-American team to win an NCAA conference championship as it claimed the regular season title in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in 2010.The Clansmen also made their final appearance in the NAIA Men's National Soccer Championship tournament last season, losing in upset fashion to Great Falls (Mont.) in the opening round.
The Clansmen repeated as GNAC champions this year and made history again on Sept. 20 when they became the first non-American school to break into the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division II Top 25. SFU vaulted to No. 1 in the rankings on October 21.
The Clansmen will be the ultimate test for the Cougars. SFU is averaging 3.62 goals per game in its first 16 contests, and while the school is not listed in the NCAA statistics, it would lead all Division II programs in scoring average. Defensively, the squad's 0.62 goals against average would rank in the NCAA Division II top 10.
Sophomore forward Carlo Basso leads the SFU offensive charge with 13 goals and 26 points on the season. The Coquitlam, British Columbia native is averaging one tally per four shots on goal.
"It will be a tough challenge," Coach Bennett added. "But, hopefully we can put in a good performance and get a positive result."
Simon Fraser isn't the only team from the True North Strong and Free participating in the USF Classic. Both the men's and women's teams from the University of Winnipeg are making the roughly 475-mile trip to Sioux Falls.
The USF women will face the UW Wesmen (more on that in a minute) at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
UW (student body 9,400) boasts a pair of outstanding soccer programs. The Wesmen soccer teams have both won back-to-back Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference gold medals. The women's team (9-5) routed Providence College 6-0 and the men (13-1-1) defeated Red River College 3-1.
UW also swept the MCAC Men's and Women's Soccer MVP awards this season. Second-year midfielder and team captain Adam Bromley was one of the league leaders in goals and named the MCAC Week Four Male Athlete of The Week.
The Cougar defense will have to keep a marker on UW forward Sheri Hince, who won her second consecutive MVP award after helping the women's team to a first place regular season finish (6-0) in the MCAC. Hince led the Wesmen in goals and was named the MCAC Week Two Female Athlete of the Week after scoring four goals in a 9-1 victory over Providence College.
In terms of common opponents with USF, the UW women's team lost to Minot State 4-1 in their first match of the season.
Side note: What's a Wesman? Glad you asked. According to UW Sports Information Coordinator Sheldon Appelle, the nickname Wesmen goes back to the western days, when men on horseback founded Global College (now the University of Winnipeg). The riders were heading west, so they called themselves "Wesmen."
Competing in just the men's bracket is Fort Hays State of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Tigers are participating in the USF Classic because the MIAA does not sponsor men's soccer. FHSU is 10-4-2 with all four losses being by one goal.
The Tigers' vaunted offense has out-scored their opposition by nearly 2-1 (30-to-16) this season. FHSU averages 2.25 goals per match are led by the dynamic forward tandem of junior Ricardo Yeverino (Barton CC) and freshman Diego Cabral (Asuncion, Paraguay). Yeverino has tallied 13 goals and three assists and ranks 17th in the NCAA D-II in points per game (1.93). Cabral has dished out 10 assists and scored three goals for 16 points (1.0 per game).
The final tournament participant is the Minot State women's team, who the Cougars will face in the first match of the USF Classic (Friday, 6:00 p.m.). The Beavers (9-7) have defeated USF twice this season; taking a 4-0 road verdict on Oct. 15 and edging the Cougars 2-1 at home on October 31.
The key to victory for both the Cougar women and men is, not surprisingly, to put the ball in the net. The women have been outscored by their opponents this season, 25-to-19 (2.36 goals per game to 1.32 goals per game). They have also taken only 87 shots on goal while giving up 122 to opposing teams.
It's safe to say that the Cougars have been a second-half team most of the 2011 campaign, with 13 of their 19 goals coming in the second stanza.
Look for a big weekend from senior forward Tasia Murray, who is only two goals shy of tying the career goal record at USF (Amy Svoboda, 29).
The USF men's team has also been outscored by the opposition this year (33-to-26), or 2.08 to 1.64 goals per game. They also trail their opponents in terms of shots on goal (111-to-84) and corner kicks (110-to-63).
But, there is a lot of energy around the men's team right now after the Cougars picked up a pair of double-overtime road wins last weekend against Truman State and Upper Iowa. Coach Bennett will look to junior midfielder and current USF Athletics Player of the Week Connor Shefte (six goals, two assists) and senior forward Amare Eyayou (four goals, two assists) to spark the Cougar offense against very tough tournament completion.
Side note: the USF Classic marks the end of the collegiate careers for 12 Cougar soccer players. For the women: Jourdan Aanenson, Danielle DeMent, Genevieve Gregory, Tasia Murray, Ashley Oswald, Sarah Stoebner and Kelsey Van Peursem. For the men: Amare Eyayou, Zach Jurgens, Cody Lutes, Barry Owen and Adam Wemhoff.