Men's Soccer: Huskies battle Tulsa for spot in AAC championship match

The UConn men’s soccer team will battle Tulsa in Tampa Friday for a chance to play in the American Athletic Conference championship on Sunday. Earlier in the season the Huskies defeated Tulsa 1-0 at Tulsa to extend their season long winning streak to five games.

With the 1-1 draw against SMU last weekend, the Huskies earned a spot in the American soccer postseason tournament as the point was enough to join Tulsa, USF and UCF for a chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Coach Ray Reid prepared the team for the match like it was a quarterfinal game.

“The league voted to cut it [the tournament] from eight to four teams, so we said that was our quarterfinals and we got through,” Reid said.

The double overtime match was a hard fought match as the Huskies went up early but conceded midway during the second half. Neither team was able to score in either overtime session.

“We needed to get the result to go through, and now we need another result to go through again. Now it’s just postseason play. We need to win and move on,” senior tri-captain Jake Nerwinski said.

The semifinal will be a match up against the Golden Hurricanes, who as mentioned before, the Huskies were able to stifle in a 1-0 road victory on Oct. 1. In that matchup, redshirt junior Andrew Geres scored the lone goal in the match in the 31st minute, as redshirt junior and goalkeeper Scott Levene was also able to add five saves and a penalty kick save.

Tulsa on the year finished the regular season with a record of 9-4-4, including a record of 4-2-1 in the American. The Golden Hurricane on the year held a record of 3-2-2 on the road but a 0-1 record in neutral sites, while the Huskies were 4-4 on the road. Leading the way for the Golden Hurricanes this season is Matthew Puig, who leads the team with 15 points and seven goals in 17 matches. Ray Saari is first on the team with five assists and second with 14 points, as the Golden Hurricanes have had 13 different goal scorers.

For the Huskies, sophomore Abdou Mbacke Thiam has led the way with 10 goals and 24 points while senior tri-captain Kwame Awuah is first on the team with seven assists. After scoring the lone goal for the Huskies against SMU last weekend, sophomore defender Simen Olafsen was selected as the American Athletic Conference Defender of the Week and was named to the All-Conference Second Team.

Six Huskies were recognized for conference honors by the American this week as Nerwinski, Awuah and Thiam were honored as First Team All-Conference members. Awuah and Nerwinski both received first team honors for the second-straight year. Olafsen as mentioned before made the second team while Munir Saleh and Niko Petridis made the All-Rookie team.

Overall, UConn was also honored with a team award, the Team Fair Play Award. This award is given to the team that accumulates the least amount of points in conference play, with one foul representing one point.

The match will begin at 4:30 Friday, and the Huskies need to win to advance.

“We will be ready for it,” Reid said.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.