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AU men’s soccer is going dancing

Eagles earn NCAA tournament bid with GLIAC tournament run

AU men's soccer celebrates their GLIAC championship win Sunday (Oct. 4) after defeating Northwood 3-0.

AU ATHLETICS

AU men's soccer celebrates their GLIAC championship win Sunday (Oct. 4) after defeating Northwood 3-0.

Zach Read

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It was all smiles for the Ashland University men’s soccer team on Sunday (Nov. 4) after their resounding 3-0 win in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships over Northwood (9-9-1) to give them an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II tournament.

The Eagles drew the No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region to earn a matchup with GLIAC rival Saginaw Valley State (9-2-6) who is the No. 3 seed in the region. The matchup will take place on Thursday (Nov. 8) in Evansville, Ind. at 7 pm.

On Oct. 5 the Eagles (8-9-3, 4-6-2 GLIAC) had a record of 2-8-1 and since then they have won six games, tied two games and have only had one loss.

A team that was once not even supposed to make it to the GLIAC tournament, got hot at the right time and has now clinched a berth into the NCAA tournament, the first time for the men’s soccer program at AU since 2010.

“From what happened at the start of the season when it wasn’t really going our way and then to fully turn it around halfway through and to come through and win the GLIAC and then having our first chance at a national tournament,” AU redshirt freshman forward Kieran Paterson said. “It’s pretty surreal.”

There was a feeling from the team that they all agreed that they did not have the start that they wanted in the first half of the season.

“The players showed flexibility and adaptability and then they showed the resilience to turn things around and the desire and determination to execute what we’re focused on the last few weeks,” AU head coach Oliver Slawson said.

The GLIAC tournament run started back on Oct. 7 when the Eagles beat Davenport 2-1 at home to have the edge over them in the GLIAC standings.

When it came time for the GLIAC tournament, the Eagles slipped in as the No. 6 seed and were matched up against the No. 3 seed Purdue Northwest.

A lone goal in that game on Oct. 30 by striker Haruki Kimura was enough for the Eagles as goalkeeper Dimitrius Karousos had three saves and shagged off nine shots on goal by the Pride (9-7-1).

Karousos was also named to the ALL-GLIAC first team and was awarded the GLIAC goalkeeper of the year. He holds a 1.03 goals against average, has three clean sheets and led the league with a 85.4 save percentage and 70 saves on the season.

“Trust me it was amazing,” Karousos said. “Being a sophomore and from a different country, getting that award was just amazing for me.”

The Eagles advanced to the semifinals to face the No. 2 seed Parkside on Nov. 2 which saw the Eagles go down early by a 2-0 score.

AU did not give up however, as striker Justin Libertowski found the ball off the rebound of a free kick in the 38th minute to find the back of the net and give the Eagles hope.

After being scoreless most of the second half, Paterson caught a pass from junior Cameron Mendel in the 86th minute to knot the game at two and send it into overtime.

The Eagles dominated the Rangers in overtime and Paterson delivered again in the 97th minute to win the overtime thriller for the Eagles and send them to the GLIAC championship.

The momentum continued into Sunday (Nov. 4) for the Eagles as goals by Kimura, Libertowski, and sophomore Yusuke Yasumasu helped AU defeat the No. 4 seed Northwood (9-9-1) by a shutout score of 3-0.

“It’s a nice reward for the student athletes for their endeavor and the work they’ve shown certainly in the second half of the season and if we still have another few weeks left in us,” Slawson said.

With the dominating performance in the GLIAC championship, the Eagles awaited their fate until the NCAA tournament selection show on Monday (Nov. 5) at 6 pm. The team gathered in the Troop Center anxiously with the AU women’s soccer team to watch the selection show.

Zach Read
Eagles wait anxiously during the NCAA Division II tournament watch party Monday night in the second floor of the Troop Center.

Drawing Saginaw Valley State, the No. 1 seed in the GLIAC tournament, had lost to Northwood in the semifinals. The Eagles have seen the Cardinals twice before this season losing 2-1 at their place on Oct. 3 and drew a 2-2 tie with them most recently on Oct. 26 at home.

“What we have been really focusing on has been winning those 50-50’s all around the park and it’s all about individual battles,” Paterson said. “We don’t necessarily get many chances some games, so it’s all about taking that one chance you might get.”

The man to watch for the Cardinals is junior striker Azaad Liadi who has eight goals, two assists and 67 shots on the season. The Eagles are all too familiar with Liadi as he scored both goals for the Cardinals in the Oct. 3 matchup and one of the teams two goals on Oct. 26.

Cardinals freshman goalkeeper Lukas Betz is one of the best in the GLIAC with only 12 goals allowed and 28 saves on the season. However, three of those 12 goals have been scored by the Eagles, so the Eagles are one of the few teams who can score on Betz.

“I told the lads after Sunday’s game to enjoy the moment but we’re far from done and we still have a long way to go to achieve the ultimate goal, which is winning a national title,” Slawson said.

The winner of the regional quarterfinals on Thursday (Nov. 8) in Evansville, Ind. between Ashland and Saginaw Valley State will face off against the host and No. 2 seed Southern Indiana on Saturday (Nov. 10) at 1 pm.

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