Memphis men’s soccer to host SIU-Edwardsville in first round of NCAA Tournament
The field for the 2023 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament is set and the University of Memphis now knows how their postseason journey begins.
The Memphis Tigers will play host to the Cougars of SIU-Edwardsville out of the Ohio Valley Conference on Thursday evening at the Billy Murphy Track & Soccer Stadium. Unlike the Memphis women’s team, who justifiably felt slighted by being given a 6-seed despite an 18-1 record, the Memphis men’s team feels appropriately seeded. The Tigers have posted a record of 10-5-2 so far this year, the first time they’ve won 10 games in a season since going 10-7 in 2019. By virtue of finishing in the top four of the AAC during the regular season, they played hosted to a conference tournament game, which they won in wild fashion over USF by a score of 3-2. Unfortunately, they were unable to spring an upset against SMU in the following round of the AAC Tournament and bowed out at the semi-final stage. It’s worth noting that Memphis is one of four teams from the AAC who made the NCAA Tournament (along with FIU, SMU, and Charlotte). Not so coincidentally, those same four teams all finished in the top four of the AAC during the regular season.
Earning a berth in this year’s NCAA Tournament marks a little bit of history for the Tigers men’s soccer program. It is just the fourth time they have made it to the NCAA Tournament, with the previous three appearances coming in 1993, 2004 (when they were both conference regular season and conference tournament champions in Conference USA) and 2022. The history is that this is the first time in program history that Memphis has been to back to back NCAA Tournaments. Despite having some initially lean years after taking over in 2014, Coach Richard Mulrooney definitely seems to have this program trending in the right direction.
The road for the Tigers to get to this point this year was an interesting one. They started off the season hot, going unbeaten in their first six games. They then lost their next three games, all in conference play. But a switch was flipped on October 4th as they went on the road and beat #9 Missouri State, who plays Omaha in their first round NCAA Tournament game. The win over Missouri State launched a hot streak as the Tigers won their next four games, before dropping the regular season finale on the road at Charlotte. Then of course, came the two games in the AAC Tournament: the aforementioned home win over USF and a road loss to SMU.
By any stretch of the imagination, SIU-Edwardsville is a very good soccer team. They have so far this year posted a 16-0-3 record. So for the Tigers to advance, they would have to do something that nineteen other teams proved unable to do this year: beat the Cougars. The Cougars were Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament champions. They are currently ranked as the #24 team in the country and have conceded just one goal in their last five games. Should the Tigers beat the Cougars, they would then have to go on the road and play the #3 team in the country, North Carolina. But the immediate task is to find a way to beat an SIU team that nobody has beaten this year. With the game at home, and the Tigers playing good soccer, anything is possible.
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