JACKSONVILLE – Looking to win its fourth-straight game and grab control of the Atlantic Sun Conference race in the process, the No. 15 RPI-ranked FGCU men’s soccer team (4-2-1, 2-0-0 A-Sun) travel to face North Florida (5-5-0, 1-0-0 A-Sun) Saturday at 7 p.m.
Seeking an unprecedented sixth-consecutive A-Sun regular-season championship, FGCU can take a huge step toward that goal with a victory over the Ospreys. With a win, the Eagles will open up a three-point lead in the conference standings and would need only one victory in their final two league matches to clinch at least a share of another title.
With six points, FGCU is currently tied atop the A-Sun standings with Lipscomb; however, the Bisons are 2-1-0 in the league. UNF and USC Upstate (1-1-0) both have three points, while Stetson (0-1-0) and Jacksonville (0-3-0) do not have any points yet. In the only other league game this weekend, Stetson travels to Jacksonville for an 8 p.m. Saturday kickoff.
FGCU owns a dominant overall record to 34-4-3 in all A-Sun regular-season games since the start of the 2010 season. All four of those losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 123 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed an impressive 105 of them (85 percent) en route to an unprecedented five-straight A-Sun regular-season titles.
HOW TO FOLLOW
The match between FGCU and UNF will be a battle of the preseason A-Sun favorites as the Eagles were picked to win the league with 32 points and three first-place votes, while the Ospreys were tabbed for a second-place finish as they garnered 29 points and two first-place votes.
The contest will also feature one of the most potent offenses in the A-Sun against the best defense in the league. UNF attempts a league-high 14.1 shots per game and its 1.8 goals-per-game average is the second-highest in the conference. Meanwhile, FGCU is again leading the A-Sun with a stout backline which has only allowed six goals all year for a league-best 0.83 goals-against average.
Making the UNF offensive attack even more challenging to defend is that the Ospreys feature five players who have at least six points on the year, led by Alex Morrell’s seven off two goals and three assists. Milan Kovacs, Josh Castellanos and Preseason A-Sun Player of the Year Helge Pietschmann each have three goals for their six points, while Simen Solstad has one goal and a team-best four assists for his six points.
Like FGCU, UNF played a challenging non-conference schedule and that has resulted in the Ospreys being ranked No. 59 in the RPI – the only other A-Sun team aside from FGCU in the top 100. UNF and FGCU both played at USF, and the Ospreys lost 2-0 and the Eagles fell 2-1. UNF defeated UCF, 2-1, in overtime, while FGCU’s match against the Knights was declared a no contest due to inclement weather with the Eagles leading, 2-0, mid-way through the second half. UNF opened A-Sun action last Saturday with an impressive 3-0 win at Lipscomb.
Pietschmann was one of three UNF players recognized prior to the start of the year with his Preseason Player of the Year honor, and he was joined by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Jay Bolt and Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year Kyle Nasta. Nasta was named Goalkeeper of the Year last season despite FGCU’s Nathan Ingham (Keswick, Ontario/Keswick HS) leading the A-Sun in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.
CLOSING IN ON HISTORY
Ingham is again positioning himself this year to be not only be the best goalkeeper in the A-Sun but also one of the best in the nation. The reigning A-Sun Defensive Player of the Week posted a pair of shutouts last week to open league action and in the process lowered his league-leading goals-against average to 0.42 – the only keeper in the conference below 1.00.
That goals-against average ranks eighth in the county. Additionally, Ingham ranks fourth in the nation in save percentage at .889. He also leads the A-Sun by a wide margin in that category, and is the only keeper in the league with three shutouts despite playing only four complete games while every other goalie in the conference with at least one shutout has played in 10 games.
At this pace, Ingham would shatter the A-Sun single-season record for goals-against average as the current mark is 0.61 held by Centenary’s Damin Hill in 1987. Last year, Ingham posted a 0.71 goals-against average to rank as the fourth-best single season in league history.
With the shutouts against Jacksonville (4-0) and Stetson (2-0), Ingham now has 22 for his career and is within three of tying and four of breaking the all-time A-Sun mark. Additionally, Ingham – who was named the PDL Championship MVP this summer – is also closing in on the A-Sun record for lowest career goals-against average. A-Sun men’s soccer history dates back to 1979.
A-Sun Career Shutouts
1) Ryan Coulter: 25 (ETSU, 2011-13)
2) Jeff Cassar: 23 (FIU, 1992-95)
3) Nathan Ingham: 22 (FGCU, 2011-Present)
A-Sun Career Goals-Against Average (minimum 2,000 minutes)
1) Ryan Coulter: 0.95 (ETSU, 2011-13)
2) Nathan Ingham: 0.98 (FGCU, 2011-Present)
3) Kyle Roelke: 1.00 (Belmont, 2004-05)
ALL-TIME vs. UNF: FGCU LEADS, 7-1-1
FGCU dominated the early matchups against UNF – and still has a large edge in the all-time series – but the Ospreys have defeated and tied the Eagles the last two times they’ve met. FGCU won the first seven meetings between the two sides, but UNF finally got the better of the Green and Blue on its home pitch in the A-Sun Tournament in 2013, claiming a 2-1 win. The Ospreys then followed up that victory with a 2-2 draw at the FGCU Soccer Complex last year. Overall, the Eagles have out-scored the Ospreys, 25-3, in their seven wins, and 28-7 in the nine all-time meetings.
After leading the A-Sun in shots but finishing near the bottom of the league in goals last year, FGCU is converting its opportunities this season. The six goals through the first two A-Sun games are the most in program history for FGCU.
Leading the offense is junior transfer Dylan Sacramento (Winnipeg, Manitoba/York University) with five goals in five games for 10 points. Sacramento’s goal-per-game average is the second-best in the A-Sun, and his five goals are the fourth-most in the league. Every multiple-goal scorer in the conference has played at least nine games with the exception of Sacramento’s teammate Miguel Jaime (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek HS) who boasts a pair of goals in only six games.
Sacramento is already within two of tying the single-season program record for goals. Seven players are tied for fourth on that list with six goals, while the record of seven is shared by Deion Jones (2010), Cristian Raudales (2011) and Felipe DeSousa (2012) – all of whom needed to play between 15-19 games in their respective season to reach the mark.
Since the start of A-Sun play, FGCU has also received offensive contributions from otherwise unknown commodities. Of the top seven players in total points in A-Sun games, four are FGCU members – led by both Sacramento with four and defender turned offensive weapon Skylar Wilks (Tampa, Fla./Newsome HS). Additionally, Nicolas Samayoa (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Colegio Valle Verde) and Justin Gavin (Brooklyn, N.Y./Eastern Florida State College/Treasure Coast HS) have three points on a goal and an assist each.
THE BEST IN THE NATION
With a win over Jacksonville last week, FGCU extended the nation’s longest home regular-season conference unbeaten streak to 27, dating back to 2008 as the Eagles have gone an incredible 24-0-3 in that time. FGCU’s last home regular-season A-Sun loss came to Jacksonville, 2-0, on Oct. 19, 2008 – more than 2,500 days ago.
RPI NO. 15
With an overall RPI of 15, the Eagles have the fifth-best non-conference RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) in the nation – a ranking which should remain strong throughout the remainder of the year as head coach Bob Butehorn has put together one of the most demanding schedules in program history.
FGCU – which has had two games not played due to inclement weather – has played the second-fewest games in the country, but the non-league docket has kept them among the nation’s best teams. The Eagles have played at RPI No. 1 Wake Forest (L, 1-0), No. 6 USF (L, 2-1) and No. 57 Brown (W, 2-1) and hosted No. 11 Georgetown (T, 0-0) and No. 55 Princeton (W, 3-2).
All five of FGCU’s non-conference opponents so far this year are ranked in the top 60 of the RPI, and the Eagles still have non-league tilts left at No. 28 UNC Wilmington (Oct. 31) and at home against No. 37 FIU. The lone non-conference foe for the Green and Blue not in the RPI top 60 is FAU (No. 191), as the Eagles and Owls will square off on Oct. 13 in Boca Raton.
The RPI is one of the most important factors the NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Committee utilizes when considering teams for postseason at-large berths and seeding in the NCAA Tournament. As a comparison, the FGCU women’s soccer team had an RPI of 26 last year when it was selected to host a First Round NCAA Tournament match for the first time in program history.
ONE FOR THE OTHER THUMB?
By virtue of a 4-1-1 A-Sun record last year, FGCU claimed an unprecedented fifth-straight A-Sun regular-season championship and will be looking to extend that run to six in 2015. Despite only joining the league and becoming a Division-I member in 2007, FGCU is the first program in the history of the A-Sun to claim at least a share of five-straight regular-season titles.
FGCU will remain on the road for a mid-week match across the state at FAU on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. The Eagles step back into A-Sun action when they host Lipscomb on Senior Night next Saturday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m.
Single-game tickets are available starting at just $7 for adults, $5 for youth (3-12) and $20 for a family pack. More information, including additional special discounts and group rates, can be accessed by logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/tickets or by clicking here. To purchase tickets, or for additional inquiries, call the FGCU Ticket Office at 239-590-7145 Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the FGCU men’s soccer program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer, Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer, Facebook /FGCUMSoccer and YouTube /FGCUAthletics.
FGCU is led by Bob Butehorn, who has coached 45 A-Sun All-Conference selections since FGCU started its program in 2007. In just four years of postseason eligibility, Butehorn has guided FGCU to three A-Sun Tournament championships and NCAA Tournament appearances – in 2011, 2012 and 2014 – and has won an unprecedented five-straight A-Sun regular-season championships. His teams have been ranked nationally on several occasions by multiple media outlets. Now in his 13th season as a head coach, Butehorn has a 112-89-23 (.551) overall record, 78-57-19 (.569) mark in his 9th season at FGCU and 46-17-5 (.713) record in A-Sun contests.
SUPPORT THE CAUSE
FGCU Athletics sponsors events throughout the year to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.