Two of Division II college soccer’s best offensive and defensive teams take the pitch Thursday afternoon for a spot in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.
And when Gannon hosts the University of Charleston in that 1 p.m. match, something will have to give.
The Golden Eagles (18-2-1) and Golden Knights (18-2) are two of the top teams in the country, not just statistically, but in the eyes of the nation’s soccer coaches. Gannon is ranked fifth in the last United Soccer Coaches Top 25 poll, while UC is ranked 10th.
The two teams earned those rankings both with explosive offense and rugged defense. The Golden Eagles not only sit second in Division II in scoring 3.67 goals per match, they also rank first with a .330 goals-against average.
UC is one of only two teams in Division II — Cal State-Los Angeles being the other — that has allowed fewer than 10 goals this season, giving up just seven each. Offensively, the Golden Eagles offer a very balanced attack. Of the top 10 goal scorers in the Mountain East Conference, UC owns six of those spots.
Gabriel Rodriguez leads the team with 11, while Christos Charalambous and Jesus Cabanas each have scored 10. Ettore Ballestracci and Adam Burchell each have eight and Freddy Tracey has seven. UC keeper Alvaro Dean has seen just 24 shots on goal this season, making 19 saves.
Gannon is a dual threat itself. The Golden Knights are fourth nationally at 3.15 goals scored per match and are ninth with a .671 goals-against average. Gannon has seven players with at least five goals this season. Alex Lee Yaw leads the Golden Knights with 12, with Sergio Del Castillo next with nine.
Opponents have had a little bit easier of a time getting to Gannon’s net, but not much success getting a shot past keeper Chandler Hallwood. He has 64 saves on the season and allowed just 13 goals.
The winner of Thursday’s match advances to face the winner of Thursday’s 10 a.m. match between Post and Franklin Pierce. The quarterfinal match kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday at Gannon.