By: Daniel Massa – Sports Editor
The Dayton men’s soccer team will play in its fourth-ever NCAA Tournament—and host a tournament game for the first time—when it takes on Oakland 7 p.m. Thursday night at Baujan Field.
The Flyers (13-5-3) clinched an NCAA berth with their 4-1 win over VCU in Sunday’s Atlantic 10 Championship.
Dayton has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2008, when it lost to Illinois-Chicago in the first round in penalty kicks.
“It feels amazing,” senior forward Maik Schoonderwoerd said Monday after seeing Dayton slotted in the bracket. “I’m a senior right now: It’s been a long four years. We’ve put in the work for four years, four preseasons [and] springs. It’s been blood, sweat and tears all those four years, and it’s just an amazing feeling to make the NCAA Tournament, and now to even host a home game in the NCAA Tournament is just an amazing feeling.”
This will not be the first meeting between the Flyers and the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at Baujan this season. The Grizzlies came to Dayton Sept. 12 and came away with a 2-0 win. That was one of only two home losses this season for the Flyers.
Dayton head coach Dennis Currier, who eclipsed the 300-win mark in his coaching career during the A-10 Championships, remembers the challenges Oakland will pose.
“They’re very good and compact defensively,” Currier said. “They work on the counter [attack] a lot. For us, it’s going to be [about] trying to break them down with wide play and some long-range shooting. They’re certainly a good team and they’ve got a lot of experience, so it will be a good match.”
Oakland went 10-8-1 on the season, including 5-3-1 in Horizon League play. The Grizzlies won the Horizon League Championship 1-0 over Wright State.
Schoonderwoerd spoke for the whole team when he expressed his delight at playing one more game at Baujan Field.
“We have the best fans, I feel like, in the nation,” Schoonderwoerd said. “They’ve been there for us throughout the year, throughout my four years, and it’s an amazing feeling to finally give something back, something special like this to them.”
“We just can’t wait to be out there Thursday night,” Currier said.
Dayton leads all NCAA Division I teams in total goals and goals per game, with 55 and 2.62, respectively.
Schoonderwoerd, who has 10 goals himself, doesn’t expect the team to slow down its offense any time soon, even if the NCAA Tournament has been known to produce some tighter play, with teams more wary of making a season-ending mistake.
“I’m not worried about that we’re not going to score goals,” the Holland native said. “I feel like we’re going to keep continuing to score a lot of goals, so we can advance in the NCAAs.”
A matchup with ninth-seeded Ohio State awaits if the Flyers can beat Oakland. That would also represent the first time the program has advanced out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament.