ATLANTA--The Georgia State men's soccer team prepares for this season's most challenging week beginning with a Wednesday night contest at No. 11 Old Dominion (7 p.m.).
Playoff aspirations hinge on this week's action as the Panthers (10-3-1, 4-2) are alone in fourth place in the Colonial Athletic Association standings with 12 points. The top six teams advance to the season-ending CAA Championships. Georgia State owns a two-point advantage over Northeastern and leads VCU by three points. Old Dominion (9-2, 5-1) is tied with James Madison (9-2-1, 5-1) and William & Mary (8-5, 5-2) with 15 points atop the CAA standings.
With five matches remaining, Georgia State head coach Brett Surrency knows each game is important as the Panthers look to ascend the CAA standings.
"We're off to a good start this year, but the last five are going to be very, very important," Surrency said, "The ODU game is our first step towards our last five games. With them being ahead of us in the standings, it's a very important game that can swing the standings either way."
Georgia State is coming off back-to-back CAA victories over UNC Wilmington and last Sunday's 4-2 win over Drexel. This week's Co-CAA Player of the Week Evan Scott notched the first hat trick in 14 years of GSU soccer as the Panthers came back from a one-goal deficit to defeat Drexel. It was the Panthers' 10th win this season, their most since 2000, when they went 12-9 and won the Trans America Athletic Conference championship under head coach Kerem Daser.
GSU is No.8 in this week's NSCAA Continental Tire South Atlantic Regional Rankings, while ODU is second in the same rankings. The Monarchs head into Wednesday's match on a five-game winning streak and boast the nation's top offense at 2.91 goals per game. Junior Yannick Smith is second in the nation averaging 1.18 goals per game and fourth in points per game (2.45). Old Dominion's 32 goals are fourth in the country and tops in the CAA. Along with a strong attack, Old Dominion is second behind GSU in the CAA in goals allowed with 11.
"Old Dominion is similar to us with their personnel," Surrency said, "They are very athletic at forward. Our backs and overall team defending versus their offense, which is tops in the country in terms of goals per game, is going to be a battle."
The NCAA Men's Soccer RPI rankings were released on Tuesday and lists Old Dominion at No. 10 and Georgia State at No. 27 in the nation out of 203 teams. It's the highest ranking in recent history for the Panthers. Georgia State's schedule has pitted them against seven teams in the top 100 in RPI so far with four games in the next five against top-100 teams.
The Panthers trail in the all-time series 1-5 vs. Old Dominion but notched their one victory last season in a 4-3 win at Panthersville. Joey Syfert scored the game-winning goal and sophomore goalkeeper Vincent Foermer stopped a penalty kick in the final five minutes to lead GSU to the win.
GSU proved it can compete with tough opponents on the road on numerous occasions this season. The Panthers lost a tight 1-0 game at No. 9 South Florida, tied 1-1 at UAB, who received votes for the top 25 earlier this season, and won a 1-0 match at NC State.
"Going to a place like Old Dominion where they are always very, very tough at home I think it's a great test for our guys," Surrency said, "I think the guys will be ready, we're confident and we're going to go up there and battle and we're going up there to win."
Check www.GeorgiaStateSports.com for a link to live stats from Norfolk, Va., of Wednesday night's match. Follow Georgia State men's soccer on twitter at @GSUMensSoccer to receive goal updates, stats and more throughout the season.