Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Men’s Soccer Returns to NCAA Tournament After WAC Upset Loss

Sean Alexander

The 2023 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament bracket was revealed Nov. 13, featuring 48 of the best teams in collegiate soccer. Earning a spot in the tournament, which culminates in a chance at a national championship, were the Seattle University Redhawks. The team went 12-2-3 (W-L-D) overall and 6-0-1 in conference play, garnering national attention for their dominance—Seattle U finished the regular season as the No. 9 ranked team in the country. They will play Oregon State University (OSU) in the first round of the tournament Thursday, Nov. 16 in Corvallis, Ore. 

But the highs of their selection into the tournament were preceded by an upset loss to the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament—a tournament in which they were the No. 1 seed.

Nevertheless, Seattle U head coach Nate Daligcon did not feel the early exit was a stain on the team and emphasized their accomplishments.

“For us, you’re 12-3-3 and you’re playing in the NCAA Tournament—which was a goal at the beginning of the year, to be one of the 48 teams called,” Daligcon said. “To do it as an at-large berth isn’t easy.”

At-large spots are tournament positions granted to the best teams in the nation that did not win their conference. The Redhawks had a chance at an automatic qualifier instead of the at-large berth they received, if they could run the table in the WAC Tournament. Instead, those hopes were dashed in the Nov. 8 loss to UNLV.

After spending the first 20 minutes of game action that night without a shot, the Rebels would slice through the left side of the Redhawks’ defense and score a 21st minute goal. Seattle U wasted no time equalizing. Junior midfielder Mo Mohamed would enter the game in the 23rd minute, only to score his first career goal in the 26th to tie the contest up 1-1.

Sean Alexander

“The coaches really talk about just being prepared whenever your number’s called,” Mohamed said. “Our offense wasn’t really there like we wanted it to be, so when I came in I was just trying to do everything I can to get us going a bit.”

Mohamed’s goal, just the second recorded shot of the game for the Redhawks, would prompt another 13 shots by the end of regulation. 

None of those attempts would find the back of the net.

The game wore on past regulation and a scoreless first overtime period. With penalty kicks just a few seconds away, the Rebels crossed the ball into the box in the final moments of the second overtime period. The ball hit Senior Seattle U defender Habib Famuditimi in the arm, and after extensive replay review, the Rebels were granted a penalty kick with just one second on the clock. They scored, winning the game 2-1 and ending the Redhawks’ bid at a WAC title.

The nature of the loss was deflating for players. Junior forward Jeremy Opong elaborated on the feeling of the letdown, but remained hopeful.

“We kind of just expected ourselves to win that game, but it didn’t happen and it happened in a very unfortunate way,” Opong said. “We’re not dwelling on that too much and we’re just ready to keep going and work.”

Opong added that although the team had extra rest time before the WAC Tournament, 10 days thanks to their first-round bye, it was actually a detriment to the offense. The team had been in a rhythm of playing every three to four days, and the extended break broke that rhythm according to Opong. With eight days between their NCAA opening round match and that loss, the issue of regaining a rhythm may still be in play.

Opong and Daligcon both shared how the team had been hoping to host an NCAA Tournament game. Instead, thanks in part to the loss, the team will face OSU on the road. The Redhawks’ previous duel with the Beavers in September was a 2-1 comeback win at home for Seattle U. Even with that regular season advantage, Daligcon is not taking this first-round matchup in a single-elimination tournament lightly.

“They were second in the PAC-12 for a reason,” Daligcon said. “They’ll be playing at home, so I’m sure that they’ll want to, kind of, get some revenge for their loss here.”

Opong suggested that the opportunity to get back in the win column has reinvigorated the team after last week’s loss. It is also Opong’s first chance to play on the national stage, which adds another layer of excitement to the preparation.

“Just to be in the tournament is something I’m grateful for and something I’m proud of this team for accomplishing,” Opong said. “There are some nerves but I know I’m ready and I know the team’s ready to do what we need to do.”

The Redhawks will have a chance to make last week’s loss ancient history as they begin what could be a deep playoff run. After all, this team remains one of the most successful Seattle U Athletics has ever produced.

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Qasim Ali, Sports & Opinion Editor

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