GW Men's Soccer to Battle Xavier on Sunday for A-10 Title, NCAA Bid
Second-Seeded Colonials Eager to Avenge Earlier Loss to Sixth-Seeded Musketeers for Conference Crown
Nov. 12, 2011
ST. LOUIS - The George Washington men's soccer team vies for the Atlantic 10 Championship crown on Sunday when the second-seeded Colonials take on No. 6 seed Xavier at Saint Louis University's Robert R. Hermann Stadium. The conference championship is slated to kick-off at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT) and fans can watch a live video feed through the Atlantic 10's Championship Central page.
GW (10-6-2) defeated fifth-seeded La Salle on Friday night in a 2-1 double-overtime thriller. Senior Yoni Berhanu got the Colonials on the scoreboard when he netted his team-high 11th goal of the season just 16:24 into action, and freshman Farhan Khan secured the game-winner in the second extra period to keep the Buff and Blue from a penalty kicks.
Xavier, the No. 6 seed entering the tournament, posted back-to-back upsets over third-seeded Charlotte and top-seeded Fordham in the first two rounds to earn a spot in the tournament finale for the second straight year. In the quarterfinal round on Thursday, the Musketeers defeated the No. 8 nationally ranked 49ers, 2-1, in overtime. On Friday evening, Xavier knocked off Fordham by a convincing 2-0 score, recording both of its tallies in the second half.
The Colonials will look to avenge a 2-0 road loss to the Musketeers earlier this season. Xavier was one of just two teams (Dayton) in the Atlantic 10 to defeat GW.
GW had four players and its head coach recognized on the end-of-the-year Atlantic 10 All-Conference teams announced Wednesday. George Lidster claimed his third league Coach of the Year award after guiding the Colonials to a 7.5-game turnaround (3-15-0 in 2010 to 9-6-2 in 2011) from the previous season and a share of the A-10 regular-season crown. Senior Yoni Berhanu was named Midfielder of the Year and First Team All-Atlantic 10, junior Seth Rudolph earned First Team All-Atlantic 10, senior defender Mike Burke was chosen Second Team All-Atlantic 10, and rookie center back Matthew Scott was voted to the A-10 All-Rookie Team.
Coach George Lidster notched his 201st career victory (201-197-51) on Friday with the semifinal victory over La Salle. Coach Lidster captured his 200th career victory with last Sunday's dramatic regular season title-clinching victory over Duquesne. In August, Coach Lidster announced he would retire at the conclusion of the season.
Berhanu collected several league and national honors this week after his weekend heroics in helping GW to its bid and bye in the A-10 Championship. Among the honors: Disney Soccer/NSCAA National Player of the Week, Atlantic 10 Player of the Week, and Soccer America National Team of the Week. Berhanu led the A-10 during the regular season with 10 goals, and upped his total to a team-leading 11 in Friday's semifinal victory.
Junior Seth Rudolph, who injured his right leg in last Friday's 3-0 victory over St. Bonaventure, recorded limited minutes in GW's match against La Salle and is questionable for Sunday's game. Rudolph ranked second on the team and fourth in the A-10 with eight goals in the regular season.
For the second consecutive week, GW is ranked sixth in the weekly NSCAA Mid-Atlantic regional rankings. The Colonials trail fellow A-10 Championship qualifiers Charlotte (No. 1 regional, No. 8 national), Fordham (No. 2) and Xavier (No. 4).
GW began the season with a 2-4-2 mark in eight non-conference matches, but rebounded for a 7-2-0 record through its nine-match A-10 slate to earn its first conference tournament bid since 2004. The Colonials have now won six consecutive matches to improve to 10-6-2 overall.
This year's A-10 Championship appearance is the program's 11th all-time in its 25 seasons in the league. GW is now 5-7-2 in 11 appearances, with a pair tourney titles in 2002 and 2004.
GW is in the A-10 Championship tournament for the first time in seven years, when the Colonials won their second conference title in three seasons (2002, 2004). GW began the 2004 season with a 1-8-3 mark, but went 9-1-1 over its final 11 matches en route to the league tournament title and the NCAA Tournament's second round.
GW has the highest-scoring duo in the A-10 Championship in senior Yoni Berhanu and junior Seth Rudolph, who have combined for 19 goals and 44 points in 2011. Only Duquesne's Simon Gomez and Joshua Patterson combined for more points (57) than the Colonials' combo.
The GW defense has posted four shutouts in its last six matches, six clean sheets in its nine A-10 contests, and seven total shutouts this season. The Colonials have outscored their league opponents by a total of 19-7 this fall, including Friday's 2-1 win over La Salle.
Junior goalkeeper Brendan Lafferty has gotten the decision in each of GW's six consecutive victories, allowing just two goals over that span. He has decreased his season goals-against average to 0.94 while posting a 6-3-2 record in 10 starts. Junior Alejandro Almodovar has played in the other seven matches, posting a 1.43 GAA and a 4-3-0 record.
GW's defensive efforts have been by-committee much of the season as Coach Lidster has relied on a number of players along the back four. The Colonials sent senior Mike Burke, junior Jamie LaFleur, sophomore Alex Sandland and freshman Matthew Scott onto the pitch in front of Lafferty on Friday, and will likely do the same against Xavier. Junior Daniel Ripperger-Suhler and sophomore Abdul Shaban could also see minutes on Sunday, with Shaban seeing 33 minutes of action in Friday's semifinal victory.
Senior Jake Davis, who saw limited minutes during the regular-season due to injury, registered his first point of the year when he assisted Berhanu's goal against the Explorers.
Conversely, the Colonials' midfield has been consistent throughout much of the season with Berhanu, juniors Zach Abaie and Mattia Melillo, sophomore Bailey Hinners and freshmen Joe Holleran and Farhan Khan patrolling the majority of minutes in the middle of the park. Abaie was recently named to the College Soccer News and Soccer America National Teams of the Week and A-10 Co-Player of the Week following his four-assist weekend in victories at Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while Melillo earned a share A-10 Player of the Week honors on Oct. 10. Holleran recorded his second career assist on Khan's game-winner and first collegiate goal on Friday evening.