This Is Big: GCU Men’s Soccer Happy to Host Super Regional Finals
By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
Twin brothers Brian and Chris Green aren’t sure what rationale was used to select GCU as a super regional host site for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds of the NCAA Division II men’s soccer tournament.
They really don’t care.
“All I can say is we’re just lucky to be hosting,” Brian Green said. “When we found out Monday morning, no one cheered because (Coach Petar Draksin) was having a serious talk. But inside, we were cheering.
“There’s nothing like home field. It’s where we play our best, in front of our home crowd, our families, our girlfriends.”
GCU, the No. 2 seed in the West Region and ranked No. 7 in the country, was chosen as the host over Simon Fraser University, which is the No. 1 seed in the West and ranked No. 2 in Division II. The Antelopes and Clan meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at GCU Soccer Field for the West Region title.
The South Central Region will also play its Sweet 16-round games at GCU, with top-seeded Regis University (ranked No. 3 in Division II) facing third-seeded Incarnate Word at 4:30 p.m. Thursday for that region’s championship.
The West Region and South Central Region champs meet at 7 p.m. Saturday at GCU, with a spot in the NCAA Final Four in Evans, Ga., on the line.
With two of the top three teams in Division II coming to GCU for playoff soccer games, where the Antelopes are 11-0 this season … well, as Chris Green said, “So far everything has fallen our way this year.”
Simon Fraser, near Vancouver, British Columbia, is the only NCAA member located outside of the United States. It earned the right to host as the No. 1 seed in the West, but the logistics of teams traveling to Canada on short notice are impractical. Simon Fraser “hosted” first- and second-round games of the NCAA tournament last week at a neutral site – Cal State University East Bay in Hayward, Calif.
“There are some difficulties to being a host at a neutral site,” Draksin said. “And I think the NCAA felt the host should be somebody who is participating.”
Home or away, GCU (16-2-1) knows it will have its hands full with Simon Fraser (17-1-1), which averages 3.6 goals per game (the Antelopes average 2.6) and has five players who have scored five or more goals this season.
NCAA Super Regional At GCU Soccer Field West Region Championship: No. 1 seed Simon Fraser vs. No. 2 Grand Canyon, 7:30 p.m. Thursday South Central Region Championship: No. 1 Regis vs. No. 3 Incarnate Word, 4:30 p.m. Thursday Super Regional Championship: West champ vs. South Central champ, 7 p.m., Saturday Tickets: $5 for adults, $3 for non-GCU students, $1 for children ages 3-12. GCU students can pick up a free ticket by presenting their GCU ID to Tyneshia Johnson in the athletics office on the second floor of the Kaibab Enrollment Center.
“If we just focus on the home field, it will be a rude awakening,” Draksin said. “We have to show up with determination, with passion and, most importantly, with concentration.
“We’re excited to be one of 16 teams in the nation out of 200-and-some that are still playing.”
This is the second time in three years the Antelopes have reached the Sweet 16. They got here by beating sixth-seeded Cal State Los Angeles in a penalty-kick shootout on Saturday. After regulation and overtime ended in a 1-1 tie, each team scored on its first four penalty kicks. GCU goalkeeper Joshua Zehring then blocked the Eagles’ final attempt by Oscar Carrillo. On the subsequent kick, Brian Green found the back of the net for the clincher, touching off a celebration on the field.
“I was confident all our guys were going to make their PKs,” Zehring said. “I just knew I needed to make one save.”
That one save has led to at least one more home game.
“The hardest team we’re going to play this season is Thursday (Simon Fraser) and we’re confident that home field is going to help out because we haven’t lost at home,” Zehring said. “Everyone is starting to think we can do this.”
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or [email protected].