Dec. 2, 2011
STORRS, Conn. - The UConn men's soccer NCAA Quarterfinal match against Charlotte at 1 p.m. Sunday is SOLD OUT. The Huskies will play Charlotte for a trip to the College Cup in front over 5,000 fans at Morrone Stadium. The gate opens an hour before kickoff.
Parking is available in the parking lot located next to the hockey rink and at the South Garage.
Fans can view Sunday's contest through a live webstream at Uconnhuskies.com and the game can be heard at WHUS.org - 91.7fm.
Preview by Myles Udland
Sunday's NCAA quarterfinal match marks the final time this season that the UConn men's soccer team will take the field at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. It will also be the Huskies' biggest game of the year.
After beating James Madison 3-0 last Sunday, the Huskies will face Charlotte in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of Sunday's game will advance to the College Cup, the final four of college soccer, next weekend in Hoover, Alabama. This is UConn's eleventh trip to the NCAA quarterfinal round, and a win would mark the Huskies sixth trip to the semifinal round of the tournament.
Sunday marks the fifth trip to the NCAA quarterfinals under head coach Ray Reid, and it is the fourth time that the Huskies will host a quarterfinal match. Reid, who led UConn to the national championship in 2000 and is in his fifteenth season at the helm in Storrs, knows that the stakes cannot cause the Huskies to approach this game differently. "We can't approach it like the biggest game of the year," said Reid. "It has to be just another game for us."
This season, the Huskies have relied on forwards Carlos Alvarez, a junior and team captain, and Mamadou Doudou Diouf, a sophomore, to lead their offense. Through two NCAA tournament games Diouf, an All-BIG EAST First Team selection, has scored three goals to continue a sensational campaign that has seen him net 13 goals throughout the year. Alvarez and senior midfielder Tony Cascio, who have each scored once during the NCAA tournament, combined with junior forward Stephane Diop to lead the Huskies in points during the regular season. These four will look to challenge Charlotte goalkeeper Klay Davis who boasts a goal against average of 0.83 and has recorded 8 shutouts during the regular season.
On defense, freshman goalkeeper Andre Blake and sophomore defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste anchor the Huskies. Blake was named the 2011 BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year as well as a first team All-BIG EAST selection. Jean-Baptiste earned BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors and joined Blake as an All-BIG EAST First Team selection. Sophmore Michael Mercado, junior Sean Weir and senior Nickardo Blake complement Jean-Baptiste on a defensive unit that has allowed just nine goals this season. Andre Blake, who led UConn to a single-season record 16 shutouts, is ranked second in the nation in goals against average, yielding just 0.36 goals per game.
Charlotte enters Sunday's contest with a 16-4-2 record, and are lead on offense by freshman Giuseppe Gentile. Gentile scored a team-high nine goals during the season and was named the A-10 Rookie of the Year. The 49ers, who earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, boast three First Team All-Atlantic-10 selections in senior forward Evan James, senior defender Charles Rodriguez and redshirt-sophomore midfielder Tyler Gibson. Charlotte is looking for their program's second trip to the College Cup, which they last qualified for in 1996.
A win Sunday will propel the Huskies to their first NCAA semifinal since their national title in 2000. First year assistants Mike Mordocco and Chris Gbandi were members of that team, but have let this year's group develop their own identity. "I've let the guys figure it out on their own, they know the drill," said Gbandi.
Gbandi joined Reid's staff this summer as Assistant Director of Soccer Administration following nine years of playing professionally. At UConn, Gbandi was a three-time BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year (1999, 2000, 2001), and was also awarded the Hermann Trophy in 2000, given to the nation's top player.
Mordocco, who joined Reid's staff this summer after eight seasons of collegiate coaching, never wavered in his support of UConn soccer and UConn athletics during his time away from the university. "As a UConn alum, I've always supported the University and their athletic teams. From soccer, to men's and women's basketball, to football, I've always stayed a UConn fan. So when Coach Reid asked me to join his staff, it was a no brainer," said Mordocco. "We're definitely motivated after the BIG EAST Final. But our ultimate goal has always been to go to make the College Cup, and seeing these guys respond after BIG EAST's has really been inspiring to me as a coach."
Sunday's contest marks the first time UConn and Charlotte will play in men's soccer. The Huskies enter Sunday's game ranked No. 5 nationally, while Charlotte sits at No. 14. The Huskies bested 23rd ranked Monmouth and No. 24 James Madison en route to the quarterfinal round, while Charlotte topped 22nd ranked Furman, 20th ranked UAB, and 10th ranked Akron to reach Sunday's contest. Charlotte enters Sunday's game with a 7-3-2 road record, while the Huskies have not lost at home in 24 games and have allowed just four goals at Morrone Stadium this year.