It’s a nice view, but Simon Fraser University men’s soccer team isn’t taking a photo of it yet.
Having spent most of the season as the No. 1-ranked team in all of NCAA’s Div. 2, the Clan is amidst some rarified air – with this week presenting an opportunity to fulfill a dream.
After reaffirming their No. 1 status for the West Region by blanking Montana State University last week, SFU launches the regional playoffs on Thursday in Seattle, their ‘home turf,’ as the lone Canadian school in the NCAA.
Being ranked highly won’t mean a thing if they can’t live up to their billing.
“It is nice to be recognized as the No. 1 seed (in the region) because I thought we put together a very good regular season and we were rewarded for it,” said Clan head coach Clint Schneider. “But none of that means anything unless we win games in the national tournament. Our guys are used to playing as the favourite in a brand new season and we are excited to get the process started.”
And with a rare loss just a few days ago, a 2-1 setback to Western Washington that ended a 16-0-0 run, the club was reminded of how thin a wedge any game can be if their not at their best.
It’s the sixth time in the past seven seasons that the school has carried the regional No. 1 banner into the tournament.
The best offence in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference managed just one shot on goal – a tally by captain Marcello Polisi late in the game – while Burnaby native Luciano Trasolini faced five shots.
That the Clan rebounded to beat Montana two days later was a good sign heading into the playoffs.
Forward Dzenan Bezdrob counted the winning goal in the 76th minute, while Polisi added some insurance late in the proceedings. Trasolini, who didn’t face a shot, picked up his 11th shutout of the season.
SFU enjoys a first round bye to the West Region bracket, with their first match coming Nov. 10 against either No. 4 Fresno Pacific or No. 5 Cal Poly Pomona.
The program has advanced to the Final Four on two occasions – in 2012 and 2013 – and carries similar expectations this time around, with a lineup that includes Cariboo Hill alum Rahid Rahiem and Burnaby Central grads Eric de Graaf and Chris Guerreiro.
With the third-best average for goals-for at 3.39 per game, the Clan has garnered a lot of its reputation based on offence. Matteo Polisi leads the attack with 18 goals and 47 points, while Connor Glennon contributed 16 markers.
But the team has also conceded just seven goals over 18 games, with the fourth-best national goals-against average at .389.