The University of Scranton men's soccer team is ready to travel up Interstate-81 for the First Round of the 2016 NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament, as the Royals open play Saturday night on the campus of SUNY-Cortland against Penn State Behrend. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The opening First Round match Saturday evening will pit host SUNY-Cortland against Morrisville State, which is set to start at 5 p.m. The winners of both matches will then face off in a second round match on Sunday evening beginning at 5 p.m. for a right to advance to the Sweet 16.
Fans that will be traveling to Cortland for the match are reminded that admission will be charged at the gate: $6 for adults and $3 for students.
On Saturday night, the Royals will be making their 16th appearance all-time in the NCAA Tournament. Posting a 22-15 all-time mark in NCAA Tournament play, Scranton will play in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season Saturday, marking the first time since a stretch of 11 straight appearance from 1976 through 1987 that the program is playing in the Tournament in consecutive seasons.
Scranton (14-3-1), who is ranked 25th in the latest D3Soccer.com Top 25, comes into the NCAA Tournament on a tear, riding a seven-match unbeaten streak into tournament play. The Royals locked up their second straight Landmark Conference title last Saturday, besting Elizabethtown (also an NCAA Tournament participant), 1-0, on the road to clinch a bid to the Tournament.
The Royals come into the tournament an experienced and seasoned unit, led by a senior class of 10 student-athletes that has lifted Scranton back to the NCAA Tournament stage.
In the final stretch of the season, a strong Scranton defense that has recorded nine shutout victories throughout the course of the season, and has allowed just four goals over the last seven matches.
The group, led by seniors and All-Landmark Conference Team selections Pat Codispoti (Rockville Centre, N.Y./Chaminade) and Matthew Busch (Mahwah, N.J./Mahwah), has allowed just 13 goals the entire season, as fellow senior Eric Hintz (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor) has had just as strong of a season in net, recording a 0.83 goals against average, while making 52 saves.
On offense, senior Henry Bonilla (Fairless Hills, Pa./Pennington School) continues to lead the team in goal scoring with seven on the year, but junior Connor Casey (Hatfield, Pa./LaSalle College H.S.) has once again stepped up at the end of a season to score goals. The Landmark Conference's Tournament MVP, Casey scored in a semifinal win over Drew, then tallied the game-winner against Elizabethtown.
In all, Casey has now scored in four straight Landmark Conference matches, and scored the game-winner in last season's NCAA First Round win over UMass-Boston, a match the Royals eventually won, 1-0.
Penn State Behrend, 17-1-3 overall and riding a 18-match unbeaten streak and an eight-match winning streak into Saturday's match, are also no strangers to the NCAA Tournament stage as a program.
In winning the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference title last Saturday, the Lions punched their ticket to the Tournament for the fourth time in the last six seasons, and will be playing in the Tournament for the first time since 2014.
The Lions have been led all season on the offensive end by senior forward Anthony Crivelli, who scored three goals alone in the AMCC Championship Match last week, pacing Penn State Behrend to a 4-0 win over Medaille. For the year, Crivelli leads all scorers for the Lions with 27 points (11 goals and five assists).
Penn State Behrend's defense, however, has been dominant all season. A group of four seniors has led the Lions backline and helped the team notch 13 shutouts throughout the year. In net, freshman Chris Ralph has allowed just 10 goals all season, making 49 saves with a 0.55 goals against average.
This is the second meeting all-time between Scranton and Penn State Behrend, as Scranton won the only meeting between the schools back in 2003, 2-1.
A full 2016 NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Tournament bracket is available here.