Men’s Soccer: Huskies lose in AAC tourney semis, NCAA selection show on Monday

Senior captain Jake Nerwinski (15) drives the ball down the field during the Huskies 1-1 tie against the SMU Mustangs on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 at Morrone Stadium. After losing in the semifinals of the AAC tournament the Huskies must now wait to see if they make the NCAA tournament. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)   

The University of Connecticut Huskies men’s soccer team suffered a huge setback in their national title hopes on Friday night, suffering a 2-0 loss to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the American Athletic Conference semifinals.

After starting out their season with a 10-3 record, the Huskies dropped three straight conference matches to leave them with the third seed in the conference and a tough matchup against Tulsa in the conference semifinal matchup. The game was a must-win as UConn needed to look a little bit better for the NCAA selection committee to put them into the NCAA tournament.

Unfortunately for the Huskies, the night didn’t start too well for them. Tulsa’s Juan Sanchez scored on the very first shot of the match for either team, putting the Golden Hurricane up 1-0 in the 11th minute.

UConn bounced back pretty well after allowing the opening goal, however, dictating much of the attacking play and creating numerous chances at goal. In the first half alone, the Huskies managed eight shots to Tulsa’s three.
One of the Huskies’ best opportunities of the night came in the 22nd minute, when left back Dylan Greenberg crossed a pass towards the far post, where forward Abdou Mbacke Thiam was waiting for a volley. However, Thiam’s ensuing shot was blocked by a Tulsa defender. Just six minutes later, Thiam earned a free kick for UConn just outside the box. Unfortunately, captain Kwame Awuah’s shot was too low and easily blocked by the Golden Hurricane wall.

The second half didn’t go much better for the Huskies either, despite a 6-4 shot advantage in the last 45 minutes. With two corner kicks and few free kicks in dangerous positions, UConn definitely had its chances but just couldn’t manage to score.

On the other hand, Tulsa was able to double their lead in the 62nd minute as Matthew Puig stayed onside, chased down a long ball and beat goalkeeper Scott Levene for his eighth goal of the season. The insurance goal didn’t completely end the game with just under 30 minutes remaining, but the Huskies’ attack just couldn’t muster a goal, as the game ended 2-0.

The win sent Tulsa to Sunday’s American Athletic Conference championship match against USF, which beat UCF in double overtime in the other semifinal match.

UConn’s loss means that their fate rests completely in the selection committee’s hands. With an automatic bid out of the question, the Huskies’ late season landslide could put them out of contention for an at-large bid into the 48-team NCAA tournament.

The NCAA selection show will take place Monday, Nov. 14 at 1:00 p.m. UConn’s 11-7-1 record might not be enough, but a critical win against Boston College in overtime will surely help their credentials as they hope to return to the tournament for the second consecutive season.


Chris Hanna is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.hanna@uconn.edu.