WILMINGTON, N.C. – Looking to end the regular season on a high note and carry momentum into next week’s Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, the FGCU men’s soccer team (6-3-3) completes its regular season with a non-league match at UNC Wilmington (8-5-3) Saturday at 7 p.m.
The match presents FGCU with another great opportunity to earn a marquee road win over a top-ranked team nationally leading into the postseason. FGCU enters the contest with an official RPI of 42, while UNCW is sitting at 36. The Eagles were ranked No. 22 in the nation the last two weeks by Top Drawer Soccer, while the Seahawks are the first team out of the top 25 in this week’s Top Drawer Soccer national poll.
HOW TO FOLLOW
A free video broadcast link is available by clicking here. Additionally, live stats can be accessed by clicking here, and fans can stay posted and interact throughout the match on Twitter by following @FGCU_MSoccer.
With his next clean sheet, Nathan Ingham (Keswick, Ontario/Keswick HS) will set the A-Sun career shutout record with 26. He is currently tied atop the list with ETSU’s Ryan Coulter (2011-13). Additionally, Ingham is also just ahead of Coulter for the conference’s best career goals against average at 0.94 as Coulter’s mark was 0.95. A-Sun history dates back to 1979.
Ingham – who ranks eighth in the nation with a 0.49 goals against average – is on pace to 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. Furthermore, Ingham also ranks eighth in the country with an .861 save percentage as he leads the A-Sun in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts (six).
By posting another unblemished 4-0-1 A-Sun record this year, FGCU has already secured at least a share of an unprecedented sixth-straight regular-season title. The only team that could match FGCU’s 13 points is North Florida as the Ospreys (3-0-1) host USC Upstate (1-2-1) on Saturday at 8 p.m. If UNF wins, it will share the A-Sun regular-season title with FGCU as those two teams battled to a 1-1 draw – the only league goal either side has allowed this year – in Jacksonville earlier this season.
Anything other than an Ospreys’ win will clinch the title for FGCU outright and subsequent No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, meaning the Eagles would play on their home pitch throughout the championship provided they do not lose.
The first applicable tiebreaker should the Eagles and UNF finish tied atop the A-Sun standings is goal differential in league games. FGCU finished +14 in that category, while UNF is currently +6. If UNF is victorious, the Ospreys will need to score at least nine more goals than the Spartans to make up the goal differential they currently face with FGCU. If that does not occur, FGCU will receive the No. 1 seed.
Provided that UNF does not beat USC Upstate by at least nine goals, the A-Sun Championship is set to begin on Thursday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. as the FGCU Soccer Complex will serve as host of the match featuring the No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed. The winner of that contest will then face FGCU in a semifinal at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7. UNF will host the other semifinal against the No. 3 seed that same night. The final is set for Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. on the campus of the highest remaining seed.
A-SUN STANDINGS (Points, Record | Remaining A-Sun Game)
1) FGCU: 13 (4-0-1)
2) UNF: 10 (3-0-1) | vs. USC Upstate
3) Lipscomb: 6 (2-2-0) | vs. Stetson
4) USC Upstate: 4 (1-2-1) | @ UNF
5) Jacksonville: 3 (1-4-0)
6) Stetson: 1 (0-3-1) | @ Lipscomb
Stetson must win at Lipscomb, otherwise it will not qualify for the A-Sun Championship. If the Hatters do win, Jacksonville will not make the five-team tournament.
Saturday will mark the first time that FGCU and UNCW meet on the pitch. The Eagles will be looking to bolster their already strong non-conference RPI which currently is the 16th-best in the country. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have put together an equally-impressive non-league docket as their non-conference RPI is the 14th-best in America.
SCOUTING UNC WILMINGTON
UNCW finished last year with an official RPI of 27 after advancing to the NCAA Tournament Second Round. The Seahawks defeated Bucknell, 2-0, in the First Round, before falling to eventual national champion Virginia, 3-1.
The Seahawks have been in and out of the national polls throughout the year. The club started the year 5-0-1 – including a 5-1 win over UNF – as that run culminated with a 3-0 blanking of then-No. 16 Duke. However, since that hot start, UNCW has gone just 3-5-2 and enter Saturday’s match without a win in its last three games (0-2-1). Most recently, the Seahawks fell at home to Colonial Athletic Association foe Charleston in a league tilt on Wednesday, 1-0.
UNCW’s offense is led by Colin Bonner with 20 points off team highs of seven goals and six assists. Ben Fisher has added six goals and five assists for 17 points, while Daniel Escobar is the Seahawks other double-figure point man with 11 off of four goals and three assists. In net, Sean Melvin has started all 16 games and has a goals against average of 0.98 while having made 41 saves.
UNCW will be the final test in an extremely challenging non-conference schedule this year for FGCU. With the exception of FAU (186), every non-league opponent the Eagles played this year is ranked in the top 60 of the official RPI, including five in the top 30 and three in the top 10. Below is a list of those non-conference foes and FGCU’s result against them.
@ 1 Wake Forest: L, 1-0
@ 7 USF: L, 2-1
vs. 9 Georgetown: T, 0-0
vs. 20 FIU: L, 2-1 (OT)
@ 30 UNC Wilmington: Saturday
vs. 48 Princeton: W, 3-2
@ 56 Brown: W, 2-1
LOOKING FOR THEIR OWN HISTORY
While Ingham is eying conference history, transfer Dylan Sacramento (Winnipeg, Manitoba/York University) and sophomore Albert Ruiz (Barcelona, Spain/UE Cornella/CE L’Hospitalet) will be looking to make team history against UNCW. Sacramento and Ruiz each have team-leading goal totals of six, and with their next goal will tie the FGCU single-season program record for goals with seven. That mark is currently held by three players in consecutive seasons from 2010-12: Deion Jones (18 games), Cristian Raudales (19 games) and Felipe DeSousa (15 games).
On Monday, Ruiz was named A-Sun Player of the Week after securing seven points in two games last week for the Eagles. Ruiz tallied three goals, including a game-winner, and had an assist. He secured five points against USC Upstate which are tied for the third-most in program single-game history, and are tied for the most by any A-Sun player in a conference game this year. Ruiz has scored at least one goal in four of the last five games, and has netted four goals in the last three games.
GETTING IT DONE ON BOTH SIDES
Traditionally known for its always-stout defense, FGCU has been getting the job done on the defensive and offensive side of the ball this year. The Eagles lead the A-Sun in goals allowed (nine – 10 fewer than any other team), shutouts (six – three more than any other team) and goals against average (0.71 – 0.51 better than any other team). On offense, FGCU leads the league in points (62 – four more than any other team) and assists (18 – four more than any other team), and is just one goal behind USC Upstate’s 23 for the conference lead.
Individually, Sacramento ranks second in the A-Sun with 1.5 points per game, while he and Ruiz are both tied for third in the conference in goals. Additionally, Kamar Marriott (Tampa, Fla./Heritage HS) is tied for the league lead with four assists.
FGCU has made it a habit to collect weekly A-Sun awards this year. Including Defensive Player of the Week honors, there have been five times an FGCU player has been recognized with a weekly conference award this season:
Sept. 14: Preston Kilwien (Pleasant Hill, Calif./College Park HS/Campolindo HS)
Sept. 28: Sawyer Jackman (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East HS)
Oct. 5: Nathan Ingham
Oct. 19: Nathan Ingham
Oct. 26: Albert Ruiz
SPORTSCENTER’S TOP 10 PLAYS
The Eagles have landed on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays twice this year already. The first came on Sept. 10 when Kilwien earned the No. 3 Play. Making his collegiate debut, Kilwien provided the most dramatic moment of a back-and-forth contest against Princeton as he delivered a left-footed shot in the 89th minute from 35 yards out into the upper-corner of the net to give the Eagles a 3-2 victory over the Tigers. The strike snapped Princeton’s nation-best 10-game unbeaten streak as the Tigers were 9-0-1 dating back to last year.
Then, on Oct. 17 – a fall Saturday against Lipscomb – Sacramento had the No. 7 Play as he used a hybrid of an abbreviated bicycle kick and volley with his back to the goal from about 18 yards out to send the ball over a defender on the goal line with the goalie charging at him.
FGCU owns the nation’s longest home regular-season conference unbeaten streak as the Eagles have not lost an A-Sun home regular-season game in 28 tries, dating back to October of 2008 as the Eagles are 24-0-4 in that timeframe.
The 4-0 win over USC Upstate last Saturday extended FGCU’s record in all A-Sun regular-season games since the start of the 2010 season to an emphatic 36-4-4. All four of those losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 132 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed an impressive 112 of them. Despite the dominance, 2015 marks the first season since 2010 that the Eagles have gone without a loss in conference play as the Green and Blue had dropped just one match a year each of the past four campaigns.
ONE FOR THE OTHER THUMB?
By virtue of a 4-1-1 A-Sun record last year, FGCU claimed a then-unprecedented fifth-straight A-Sun regular-season championship – a run it has since extended to six in 2015. Despite only joining the league and becoming a Division-I member in 2007, FGCU was the first program in the history of the A-Sun to claim at least a share of five-straight regular-season titles.
A-Sun Championship information and postseason awards will be announced early next week on FGCUAthletics.com.
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 six-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 114-90-25 (.552) overall record, 80-58-21 (.569) mark in his 9th season at FGCU and 48-17-6 (.718) 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.