Nov. 10, 2012
Saint Louis and VCU will vie for the 2012 Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Soccer title, Sunday afternoon at Charlotte’s Transamerica Field. The two teams are set to take the pitch at 4:00 p.m. in front of a nationally televised audience on CBS Sports Network. The victor will emerge with the A-10’s coveted crown and the league’s automatic bid to compete in the NCAA Tournament.
VCU and Saint Louis met earlier this season on Oct. 21, as the Billikens battled the Rams to a 3-2 double overtime victory. SLU erased a 2-1 deficit on a goal with 6.8 seconds left in regulation, and went on to score in the 104th minute to hand VCU its second loss of the season.
Saint Louis, the tournament’s second seed, earned its place in the A-10 Championship after finishing the regular season with a 7-2 record against league foes. The Billikens opened the event with a 3-1 triumph over #7 La Salle on Thursday in the quarterfinals. Junior midfielder Alex Sweetin and sophomore forward Robbie Kristo tallied a goal and an assist apiece, and sophomore forward Kingsley Bryce scored the game-winner.
The win against the Explorers set up a semifinal matchup against two-time defending A-10 champion and third-seeded Xavier. Bryce again tallied the game-winner, scoring in the 82nd minute off an assist from junior forward Adnan Gabeljic, to vault the Billikens to the victory. The SLU defense limited the potent Xavier attack to just eight shots, and junior keeper Nick Shackelford stood tall with three saves.
SLU is making its fourth appearance in the A-10 Championship finale since joining the league in 2005. The Bills advanced to the championship game in their inaugural season, but Rhode Island captured the title on PKs after the two teams played to a 2-2 draw at SLU’s Hermann Stadium. In 2006, the title once again eluded the Billikens, as Rhode Island claimed the 2-0 victory. In 2009, Saint Louis topped Dayton 2-0 in Kingston, R.I. for its first A-10 tourney title.
VCU finished its first season in the A-10 with a 6-1-2 league mark, tying for fourth place with Temple and Xavier. The Rams garnered the fourth-seed by virtue of the A-10’s tie-breaking procedures and in their first tournament outing defeated #5 Temple, 1-0, courtesy of Mario Herrera Meraz’s golden goal in the game’s final minute. The Rams went on to upend top-seeded Charlotte, 1-0 in the semifinals – the tournament’s only upset – once again on the foot of Mario Herrera Meraz.
The Atlantic 10 currently has four teams among the NCAA’s top 35 RPI leaders, including Saint Louis (9), Charlotte (13), VCU (21) and Xavier (35) – the same four squads are also ranked among the top 25 teams nationally. All four A-10 squads will eagerly await the NCAA’s announcement of the 48-team tournament field on Monday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. via the organization’s website – NCAA.com.
The A-10 has received multiple bids to compete in the NCAA Tournament eight times and received a league-record three bids in both 1989 (Penn State, Rutgers, George Washington) and 2008 (Saint Louis, Dayton, Massachusetts).