PHILADLEPHIA - Penn has played 16 matches in the NCAA Men's Soccer Championships, and for the 11th time, the Quakers will compete in the national tournament on home field as the 12-5-0 Red and Blue host Bucknell (10-8-2) on Thursday night at 7 p.m. on Rhodes Field. This will mark just the second NCAA Tournament game on Rhodes Field, the first a 1-0 win for the Quakers over Seton Hall in 2002.
Penn earned its way into the NCAA Championships via an at-large selection after one of the finest regular seasons in program history. The Quakers won 12 matches for just the sixth time in the 106 years of Penn men's soccer, maintaining a spot in the national rankings most of the season. All the while, the Quakers played an extremely tough schedule, entering the tournament with a RPI of No. 25 and five matches against teams in the Top 35.
The hard work put in by the Quakers this season was reflected in the All-Ivy selections voted by the Ivy League's coaches on Tuesday when the Red and Blue tied for the league lead with seven All-Ivy selections. Defender Thomas Brandt and midfielders Christian Barreiro and Jason Gorskie were first-team All-Ivy selections joined by second-teamers Ben Berg, Jake Levin and Stephen Baker as well as honorable mention selection Loukas Tasigianis.
Penn is 7-3 over its last ten matches entering the tournament, but just 1-3 in the four most recent matches. All four contests were one-goal affairs, including a 2-1 loss in double overtime to Harvard in the final game of the regular season. The Quakers are tested and ready when it comes to close matches, however, with an 8-5 record in games decided by one goal and a 3-1 mark in overtime matches. Bucknell, on the other hand is 6-6 in games decided by one-goal and 2-2-2 in overtime.
The Bison have played three more matches in 2010 than the Quakers, accounting for the advantages in total statistics like goals, shots, etc. However, when broken down on a per-game basis, the two offenses are playing at a similar clip. The Bison are scoring 1.60 goals-per-game while Penn is at 1.53 gpg. Bucknell is averaging 14.6 shots-per-game while Penn is at 13.7 while shots are reaching goal 47% of the time for Bucknell to 46% for the Quakers.
In goal, Penn has gone the whole season with senior Ben Berg manning the net and he has posted his finest season as a collegian. He finished second in the Ivy League with a 0.69 GAA and .844 save% - both career highs. He finished with eight shutouts, tied for the fourth-most in a single season by a Penn keeper while making 65 saves in the process.
Bucknell, on the flip side, has split time between two keepers. Marc Hartmann has appeared in 14 matches, with a record of 7-3-1 and four shutouts. He has a 1.13 GAA and a save percentage of .690. Tommy Caso has seen time in 10 contests with a 3-5-1 record and a 1.86 GAA. Hartmann has played the most of late, with shutouts in both matches in the Patriot League Tournament and figures to get the nod in the game Thursday.
For Bucknell, this marks the third time in five years that the Bison have won the Patriot League and played in the NCAA Tournament. The Bison advanced to the national championships with a 2-0 win over American in the final. The Bison were a long-shot to make the NCAA Tournament, entering their league tourney as the fourth seed and needing wins over top-seeded Colgate and the Eagles to turn their .500 season into a very successful one. In the final, senior Ross Liberati scored two goals - both assisted by Tommy McCabe- in the first half to provide the difference.
Brendan Burgdorf was recently named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year with six goals and two assists on the season. McCabe has an astounding 10 assists to help pace the Bison with 16 total points. Liberati and Josh Plump each have 5-1-11 lines for the season. Mayowa Alli had 3-3-9 totals and earned Patriot League Rookie of the Year honors.