The 2012 BIG EAST Men’s Soccer Championship will take place on Nov. 9 and 11 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., between four teams all coming from the Blue Division: Connecticut, Georgetown, Marquette and Notre Dame.
The first semifinal pits No. 4 seed Marquette against No. 2 seed Georgetown in a rematch of a game played on Oct. 13. In that game, then-ranked No. 10/14 Georgetown upset then-No. 4/2 Marquette. The Golden Eagles had started the 2012 season on a 12-game winning streak and the Hoyas snapped it with a 2-1 decision.
Since that game, MU has posted a 4-1-1 record, while Georgetown has a six-game winning streak on the line. Marquette enters Friday’s match with a 16-2-1 overall record and is led by Andy Huftalin, who has 24 points on 19 goals and four assists. Charlie Lyon has played all 19 games between the pipes, making 81 saves and earning 10 shutouts with a 0.71 goals-against average.
The Hoyas (16-2-1) are led by Brandon Allen, who has 12 goals and two assists for 26 points. Tomas Gomez had played in 13 games at goalkeeper, posting a 0.60 goals-against average and recording six shutouts. Georgetown is making its 20th appearance in the BIG EAST postseason and has made it to the final game three times, but will be looking to capture its first title.
Marquette is making its fourth appearance in the tournament and is looking for its first tournament championship.
In the second semifinal, top-seeded Connecticut will face off against No. 3 seeded Notre Dame. When the Huskies and Fighting Irish met earlier in the season, UConn recorded a 2-1 win on Sept. 29 at home. At that time, the Huskies were ranked second in the nation, while Notre Dame was ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA poll and No. 9 in the Soccer America poll.
Notre Dame has not lost a game since Oct. 9 at Northwestern, while Connecticut has won five of its last six games. The Fighting Irish are 14-3-1 overall and are led by Ryan Finley, who leads the league with 18 goals and 48 points. Time in net is split between Will Walsh and Patrick Wall. Each has played in nine games and allowed eight goals. Walsh has a 0.87 goals-against average and four shutouts, while Wall has a 0.89 goals-against average and three shutouts. The Irish are making their 16th appearance in the BIG EAST Championship, reaching the final four times and winning two titles.
The Huskies enter this weekend 15-2-1 overall and are led by Mamadou Doudou Diouf, who has registered 28 points on a team-high 13 goals and seven assists. Andre Blake is in net for UConn, allowing only nine goals for a 0.50 goals-against average. The Huskies are making their 28th appearance in the BIG EAST Championship, having won seven titles appearing in 13 championship finals.
In the field of eight, competition was played on Nov. 3 and 4, with only one match decided by more than a goal. On Saturday, Nov. 3, Marquette upset No. 1 Red seed Louisville 2-1. Georgetown defeated No. 3 Red seed St. John’s 2-1 Notre Dame posted a 4-2 victory over No. 2 Red seed Syracuse. On Sunday, Nov. 4 Connecticut, captured the last of the semifinal spots with a 1-0 win against No. 4 Red seed Villanova.
In the most recent NSCAA rankings, Georgetown is ranked fourth nationally, while Connecticut (No. 6), Notre Dame (No. 7) and Marquette (No. 10) make it four BIG EAST teams in the top 10. Louisville is not far behind in the No. 11 spot, while St. John’s is ranked No. 13. Of the eight teams that reached the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals, six were nationally ranked.
There is only one team that comes back after reaching the semifinals last year. In 2011, the last four teams standing were Connecticut, Louisville, St. John’s and Villanova. The Huskies reached the final, where they fell 1-0 to St. John’s.
The winner of the BIG EAST Championship earns an automatic berth the NCAA Championship, which will be held at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., on Dec. 7 and 9. Last season, the BIG EAST had seven teams earn spots in the NCAA Championship. All seven teams earned home games, with four teams earning byes to the second round. Three teams advanced to the quarterfinals (Connecticut, Louisville and USF). The BIG EAST has two national titles, St. John’s in 1996 and UConn in 2000.