I truly believe the Elon University men’s soccer team is one of the best in the nation. If life was fair, the Phoenix would have guaranteed themselves an NCAA Tournament berth with their two regular season wins over nationally ranked opponents — one against Atlantic Coast Conference power Wake Forest University, the other against Coastal Carolina University, a team who had beaten the Phoenix in the team’s last four contests.

What’s more, the Phoenix has been ranked for virtually the entire year, dropping out once in mid October after losing three of four. Since then, the Phoenix have won three straight games to close out the season and earned the second-seed in the Southern Conference Tournament. They lost just two conference games in a highly competitive Southern Conference, both on the road and one of which was to then 22nd-ranked Furman University.

In summary, the Phoenix have as impressive a resume for the NCAA Tournament committee to consider as any team in the nation, yet the overwhelming belief among fans is that the Phoenix will have to win their third straight Southern Conference championship to have any chance at the big dance.

Screen shot 2013-11-09 at 3.47.33 PMWhy? Because the Phoenix are considered a mid-major in a non-power six conference, they’ll need to further bolster their resume in order to catch the attention of the NCAA’s selection committee. To guarantee a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the Phoenix must win the SoCon Tournament. At the very least, the Phoenix must take care of business in their tournament opener against Appalachian State University on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Rudd Field, and win their semifinal game against either University of North Carolina at Greensboro or Georgia Southern University.  A win in that game, should, in my estimation, be enough to get the Phoenix an at-large birth into the NCAA tournament, but in reality it likely won’t.

So, the only solution is to win the SoCon Tournament and take all the guess work out of making a third trip to the big dance. If not, head coach Darren Powell and his players will have to sweat it out during the tournament’s selection show, staring helplessly as teams are sent to sites across the country and hoping that they’d be one of them.

However, the Phoenix control their own destiny. Win three games in their conference tournament and they’ll be laughing and joking in the Fat Frogg Bar and Grill as they watch to see who they are given as their first opponent. It’s really that simple. Beat UNCG — assuming the Spartans beat Georgia Southern in their first round game — in the semifinals, a rematch of their highly entertaining regular season matchup that saw the Phoenix score three goals in the game’s final thirty minutes to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3, and they get another shot at Wofford College. The game against the Terriers was especially heartbreaking for the Phoenix, who lost in overtime after dominating for much of the second half.

If the Phoenix can beat the Terriers in the more important of the team’s two games, they’ll drive back to Elon with the conference trophy in their hands and a berth to the NCAA Tournament.


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