Cary, N.C. – For the third time in four seasons, the Fordham men's soccer team is once again in the NCAA Championship. After receiving the Atlantic 10's automatic bid in 2014 and 2016, the Rams received an at-large berth for the first time in program history, after finishing the year at 12-5-2 overall with an NCAA RPI ranking of 26. However, unlike 2014 and 2016, the Rams got a monkey off their back, getting the program's first-ever NCAA win by defeating St. Francis Brooklyn, 3-2, in overtime at Fordham's Jack Coffey Field.
In the second round, Fordham pulled off another victory, defeating #11 seed Virginia, 1-0, at Klöckner Stadium in Charlottesville. Eric Ohlendorf scored in the 83rd minute on a cross from Jannik Loebe for the only goal of the game, while Rashid Nuhu made five saves for his 11th shutout of the season.
The Rams extended their magical run in the Round of 16, advancing past #6 seed Duke on penalty kicks, after coming back twice in regulation. Trailing 1-0 and 2-1, Fordham got goals from Jannik Loebe and Bart Dziedzic to force overtime and eventually the penalty kick shootout. The Rams went ten shooters deep with the final one by Jordan Black to give Fordham an 8-7 lead. Rashid Nuhu then came up with his third save of the shootout to put Fordham into the final eight of the NCAA Championship.
The Rams now continue their NCAA journey on Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., as Fordham will face #3 seed North Carolina at 6:00 PM with a berth in the NCAA College Cup Final Four on the line. This will be the third consecutive ACC opponent for the Rams, as the ACC still has three teams in the final eight with North Carolina, #1 seed Wake Forest, and #4 seed Louisville. Among the eight remaining teams in the tournament, Fordham is the only unseeded team left.
North Carolina entered the NCAA Championship with a 14-3-1 record and a #2 RPI ranking to receive an at-large berth into the tournament after falling to Notre Dame in the ACC Championship quarterfinals.
After an opening round bye, the Tar Heels defeated UNC-Wilmington in the second round, 2-1, while knocking off SMU, 2-0 in the Round of 16.
North Carolina is led by a pair of MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalists in Cam Lindley and Alan Winn. Lindley leads the Tar Heels with 12 assists and 26 points to go with seven goals, while Winn has a team-high 10 goals in just 15 games. Jelani Peters is also a premier scorer for North Carolina with nine goals and seven assists for 25 points.
In goal, North Carolina has shared time with three different netminders. James Pyle has started and won both NCAA Championship contests, improving to 5-1-0 on the year with a 1.00 goals against average and two shutouts.
SERIES HISTORY: This will be the first ever meeting between Fordham and North Carolina.
LAST TIME OUT: For the second time in this NCAA Championship tournament, the Fordham men's soccer team fought back from two one-goal deficits to force overtime at 2-2, and eventually won a penalty kick shootout, 8-7, to advance past the #6 seed Duke Blue Devils at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C.
The match goes into the record books as a tie with Fordham moving to 14-5-3 on the season, while Duke ends their campaign at 13-4-3. It marks the first time a Fordham Division I men's program has reached the final eight of the national championship tournament. Only the 1978-79 women's basketball team had previously reached the last eight of the then-AIAW National Championship.
Duke didn't waste much time getting on the board in the eighth minute, as Brian White headed in a cross from Max Moser for his tenth goal of the season inside the right post.
The score remained at 1-0 until the 53rd minute when Fordham knotted the game at one. Bart Dziedzic dribbled out from the sideline and crossed the ball in the box for Jannik Loebe. Loebe corralled the ball, turned, and fired the ball into the right side of goal for his career-high eighth marker of the season.
The Blue Devils then regained the lead in the 63rd minute. Off a Max Moser corner, White flicked the ball to Matthias Frick on a scramble in front, and just got the ball over the line as Fordham goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu attempted to grab it. After video review, the goal was confirmed.
Fordham would not let their season end on that goal, as the Rams tied the game at two in the 87th minute. Off a long ball, Dziedzic picked up the ball left of the box and cut in. The Duke goalkeeper and two defenders converged on the ball, but could not grab it. Dziedzic tapped the loose ball into the open goal for his third of the season, and tie the game at two with 3:22 left.
The match went into overtime, with both sides having chances, but none found the back of the net, putting the game into a penalty kick shootout to decide, who would advance to the NCAA quarterfinals. Fordham shot first with Duke goalkeeper Will Pulisic denying Janos Loebe to start.
After Joergen Oland and Matthew Lewis converted their penalty kicks for Fordham, Nuhu denied Kristofer Gardarsson with a kick save to put the score at 2-2 through three shooters. Nuhu then converted on his own penalty attempt, while Duke answered, making it three-all to the fifth shooter.
Jannik Loebe then hit the crossbar to give Duke a chance to win, but Nuhu stopped Carter Manley with a punch save to the left side to push the shootout into extra shooters. Matt Miller, Dziedzic, Vincenzo Zuccala, Connor DeFilippis converted the next four kicks, as did Duke, putting the tenth shooter on the spot.
The tenth shooter for Fordham was senior backup goalkeeper Jordan Black, who has yet to play a single second in goal this season for the Rams. He calmly converted into the left side of the goal to put Fordham ahead, 8-7. Moser had to score for Duke to continue the shootout, but Nuhu made the stop to the right post, putting the Rams into the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
Nuhu finished with three saves during the game and matched that with three in the shootout. Pulisic made two saves in game and one in the shootout.
LEWIS & NUHU NAMED TO MEN'S SOCCER ALL-ECAC FIRST TEAM (11/29): The Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) announced the 2017 Men's Soccer All-ECAC Teams with two Fordham Rams being honored, as junior goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu and senior defender Matthew Lewis were named All-ECAC First Team.
In order to be eligible for All-ECAC honors, a player must have been selected to his conference's All-League First Team and the school must be an active member of the ECAC. For Lewis and Nuhu, it is the second major postseason accolade of the season, as both have been integral parts of the Rams' run to the NCAA quarterfinal round.
Lewis, the 2017 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Atlantic 10 selection, has been the iron man on the Rams' backline, playing over 2,000 minutes this season for Fordham while missing only two minutes of action. He has two goals on the year from his defender position and has set a new career-high with four assists. He has led the Rams to 11 team shutouts, which is tied for fifth in the NCAA, and has set the career records for games played and started at Fordham with 83.
Nuhu, a First Team All-Atlantic 10 selection, has played every second of the 2017 season in goal for the Rams, setting a new Fordham single season record for goalkeepers in minutes played at 2,050, while his 11 shutouts this season are the second-highest single season total, just one of the pace of Jeff Knuth in 1987. He was named Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Week four times this season, and was recently named Player of the Week by Top Drawer Soccer after posting three saves in regulation and overtime and three more in a penalty kick shootout at Duke. He has also risen up the career records list at Fordham among goalkeepers, ranking second in goals against average (0.90), third in minutes played (5,410), shutouts (24), and appearances (57).
NUHU & DZIEDZIC NAMED TO COLLEGE SOCCER NEWS & TOP DRAWER SOCCER NATIONAL TEAM OF THE WEEK (11/27): Fordham junior goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu and sophomore midfielder Bart Dziedzic became the fourth and fifth Ram this season to be named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week, it was announced on Monday. They join Jacob Bohm, Jannik Loebe, and Eric Ohlendorf as previous Fordham players honored this year. The Rams' duo was also named to Top Drawer Soccer's National Team of the Week with Nuhu earning their Player of the Week award.
Nuhu made three saves over the course of regulation and overtime against #6 seed Duke to push the 2-2 draw into a penalty kick shootout for a berth in the NCAA quarterfinals. He then made three saves in the shootout and converted one of the Rams' penalty kicks, as Fordham won the shootout, 8-7, over the Blue Devils to advance to the Elite Eight.
Dziedzic was involved in all of the Rams' scoring on Saturday against Duke. First, he assisted on Fordham's opening goal by Jannik Loebe, which tied the game at one. Then, he tied the game at two in the 87th minute with an unassisted tally to force overtime. Lastly, he converted on a penalty kick in the shootout.
In addition to Nuhu and Dziedzic, the Fordham men's soccer team was the big story of the NCAA Championship this past weekend, as the Rams were the only unseeded team to reach the Elite Eight with stories on Front Row Soccer, Soccer America, The18.com, and SB Nation, while Top Drawer Soccer has the Rams ranked #7 in their latest Top 25 poll.
CARDIAC RAMS: When the game gets into crunch time, the Rams have proven up to the task. Fordham has scored 24 of its 32 goals scored in the second half or later, while allowing just 10 to opponents.
WHO'S NEXT: If the Rams win on Saturday, the Rams will face the winner of #2 Indiana and #7 Michigan State next weekend in Philadelphia in the final four of the NCAA College Cup.