The UMBC Retrievers and Princeton Tigers had a lot in common on soccer pitches on the east coast over the past six weeks. Both were nearly unbeatable. The Retrievers lost just once--a 2-0 defeat to Boston University before a record crowd and national television audience on Oct. 15. The Tigers swept through the Ivy League unscathed (7-0-0) and has won 12 consecutive games heading into the tournament. The two high-powered offenses meet at Roberts Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championships in Princeton, N.J on Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m.
The Retrievers advanced to their first NCAA Championship since 1999 after earning an automatic berth by capturing the America East title. Second-seeded and host UMBC (11-4-3) played fifth-seeded New Hampshire to a scoreless draw, but prevailed in penalty kicks, 5-4, at UMBC Soccer Stadium on Nov. 13.
It was UMBC's first America East title since joining the conference eight years ago.
UMBC is unbeaten in six straight games (5-0-1) and has lost only one contest in its last 11 outings, posting a 7-1-3 mark since October 2.
The Retrievers advanced to the title game by virtue of a 3-2 win over No. 3 Stony Brook at UMBC Stadium on Nov. 10. UMBC clinched a spot in the America East Conference Tournament by virtue of its 3-1 win in its last regular season home game against Vermont on Oct. 27 and earned the No. 2 seed and first-round bye in the proceedings with a 1-0 at Stony Brook on Oct. 31.
The Retrievers are now ranked eighth (tied with St. John's) in the Northeast region.
UMBC is assured of its 15th winning season in 20 years under Head Coach Pete Caringi, Jr..Pete Caringi is now 11-13-2 in NCAA Division I conference tournament play and now has an overall record of 211-131-40 (.606).
UMBC has earned a slot in the six-team America East Tournament in five of eight league seasons and makes back-to-back appearances for the first time. 2010 is the first even-numbered year that the Retrievers have advanced.
UMBC advanced to its first NCAA Championship in 1999. The Retrievers were undefeated during the season and edged Mount St. Mary's to win the Northeast Conference title. UMBC then played at Lafayette in an NCAA Play-In game and advanced to the tournament in the same manner as they did on Saturday—via penalty kicks.
The Retrievers, who owned the country's best record that year at 19-1-1, were matched up with top-seeded Duke in the first round in Durham, N.C. UMBC led, 3-1, in the second half, but lost a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime decision.
America East All Conference: For the second consecutive year, UMBC senior forward Levi Houapeu has been tabbed as one of the major award winners as America East Conference coaches selected its all-conference teams.
Houapeu earned 2010 Striker of the Year honors after taking home Midfielder of the Year honors in 2009. He leads a group of a school-record six Retrievers that were selected to the conference's first and second teams, All-Rookie team and All-Academic team.
Junior midfielder Andrew Bulls joined Houapeu on the America East Conference First Team. A pair of newcomers, junior goalkeeper Dan Louisignau and freshman forward Pete Caringi IIIwere selected to the second team, while Caringi and classmate Daniel Welsh earned all-rookie team honors.
Junior fullback Vince Savarese was named to league's All-Academic team.
Bulls made the All-Rookie Team in 2008 and has been a first team selection in each of the last two seasons. UMBC's previous high for America East All Conference honorees was five in 2003, 2007 and 2009.
With two goals in the semifinals vs. Stony Brook, Houapeu was named the America East Championship's Most Outstanding Player. He earned All-Championship team honors along with Bulls and the two other tri-captains, midfielders John Paul Waraksa and Chris Williams.
In-Depth Season Review: In the America East title match, the second-seeded Retrievers (11-4-3) and fifth-seeded Wildcats (9-5-6) played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, necessitating the penalty kicks. After both teams converted their opening kicks, UMBC junior goalkeeperDan Louisignau (Wilmington, Del./Concord/Virginia) made a diving save to his right on an attempt by UNH's Joe Corsello. The next three shooters for each squad converted, leaving it up to Waraksa with the shootout knotted at 4-4. The Retriever captain placed his shot inside the left post, setting off a wild celebration from the Retriever players and partisan crowd at UMBC Soccer Stadium.
The Retrievers scored three times in the final 10 minutes of the first half and held off Stony Brook in the second stanza to earn a 3-2 victory in the America East Conference semifinals and advance to the league championship game for the second year in a row. The Retrievers dropped a 2-0 decision at Stony Brook in the 2009 title game.
Levi Houapeu scored twice – his league-leading 13th and 14th goals of the season – to tie an America East Championship record, and sophomore defender Liam Paddock headed in the game-winner with seven seconds remaining in the first period.
In the season's final regular season game, Bulls scored the game's lone goal in the 62ndminute at Stony Brook, converting a direct kick from just outside the box. Louisignau posted his third shutout of the season, making several outstanding saves to preserve the Retriever win.
UMBC started its six-game run with a 2-1 overtime win over No. 23 Penn State (College Soccer News) on Oct. 20. The victory at Penn State was UMBC's first victory over a team in the national rankings since 2000, when the Retrievers won at No. 17 (Soccer Times) Maryland, 2-0. Sophomore midfielder Milo Kapor scored the game-winning goal with 1:11 to play in the first overtime period. Bulls gave UMBC a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute vs. the Nittany Lions, putting in his own rebound after a long break-in on goal. The Retrievers held that advantage until the 76th minute when the Lions got the equalizer. But UMBC dominated and overtime session and ended it when Kapor, who had entered the game minutes earlier, hit a brilliant 30-yard bender from the left wing which tucked just inside the right netting of the cage.
Bulls had a goal and two assists on three days later, earning America East Conference co-Player of the Week honors, as UMBC blanked Hartford, 3-0.
UMBC's lone negative result in October occurred on the 15th, as the visiting Boston University Terriers blanked UMBC, 2-0. A record crowd of 2,781 packed UMBC Stadium, as the game was shown live on Fox Soccer Channel during UMBC's Homecoming weekend. UMBC's previous record high was 1,505 fans who attended UMBC's home match vs. Loyola in 2009. UMBC is averaging a school record 1,042 fans per game in 2010.
A Glance at the Tigers: Princeton (13-3-1) started the season at 1-3-1, but has won 12 consecutive games heading into the tournament. The Tigers posted a perfect 7-0-0 Ivy League record. The two teams faced one common opponent this season in Fairleigh Dickinson. Princeton defeated the Knights, 1-0, while FDU edged UMBC, 2-1 in late September. Both games were played in Teaneck, N.J.
UMBC and Princeton have never met in men's soccer. In fact, the Retrievers have only played one Ivy League school—the Penn Quakers. The Retrievers won two of three matches vs. Penn, but the last match was in 1999.
The Apple Does Not Fall Far: Pete Caringi III has won a pair of America East Conference Men's Soccer Rookie of the Week awards (9/7, 9/20). He made his first official start at FDU, although he was in the starting lineup for the cancelled contest at Loyola. Though his first six games coming off the bench, Caringi had scored four goals in 207 minutes of action and was a +4 (5 UMBC goals scored, 1 allowed) when he was on the field in wins over La Salle and Mount St. Mary's. Caringi became the first UMBC freshman to earn a spot on the first or second team since Matt Watson was tabbed to the first team in 2004
The Levi is Not Dry: Levi Houapeu now has 14 goals in 18 games this season and just became the seventh player in school history to amass 30 career goals. He has 84 career points (33-18-74) and has moved into fourth place on UMBC's all-time scoring list. The nation's leading scorer in 2009 was ranked in several NCAA statistical categories entering play this week.
Points Per Game: 8th (1.89) Goals Per game 6th (0.78)
Total Points: 8th (31) Total Goals: 6th (14)
No player in the nation has more points in the past two seasons than Houapeu (29-16-74). He was the America East Player of the Week for games ending Oct. 27, 2010.
Through games of Nov. 14, 2010…
Player, School, Total Points: 1. Levi Houapeu, UMBC, 70 2. J.C. Banks, UW Green Bay, 653. Andrew Bulls, UMBC, 62. T4. C.J. Sapong, James Madison 59 T4. Darren Amoo, Liberty 58
The two-goal effort by Houapeu vs. Stony Brook was the sixth multi-goal game of his career and fourth of the season. His three-goal effort vs. Vermont on Oct. 27 was the third of his career (Drexel, 9/19/09, Albany, 10/24/09) and UMBC's first hat trick of the 2010 campaign.
The last player to hit the 30-goal plateau was Derek McElligott, who did so in the 2003 season and finished his career with 47 tallies. Houapeu leads America East in goals/goals per game and points/points per game.
Bullish on Bulls:, Junior forward/midfielder Andrew Bulls was the America East Men's Soccer co-Player of the Week for games ending Oct. 24. He scored the game's first goal in wins over Penn State and Hartford and added two assists vs. the Hawks. Bulls became the first player in school history to post 25 career goals (26) and 25 (27) career assists.
He has now posted two assists in a game on four occasions this season (VMI, Mount St. Mary's, Albany, Hartford). He has 14 assists on the campaign and was second in the nation in assists per game (0.78) entering play this week. Scott Rojo of High Point leads the nation at 0.85 assists per game. The preseason Hermann Award candidate now has 27 career assists, moving into second place on the school's all-time list. His 80 career point total (27-27-79) moves him into a tie for seventh place on UMBC's all-time scoring list.
Bulls leads America East in assists/assists per game. He followed Houapeu and became the 12th player in school history to post 25 career goals. His 14 assists this season is the second-best figure in school history.
Other Player Notes: Senior Chris Williams played exclusively in the backfield for his first 59 career games of his career, but has played in the midfield in UMBC's last 11 outings. He responded with UMBC's first goal of the contest at Bucknell and his six points this season (2-2-6) is a new personal best.
Junior midfielder Nirav Kadam has an excellent post-season history… Three of his eight career goals entering the season occurred in the 2008 College Cup while he played with the Spartans.
Junior goalkeeper Dan Louisignau recorded five saves at UNH on Oct. 9 to post his first shutout in a UMBC uniform as the Retrievers and Wildcats battled to a scoreless tie. Louisignau is 8-1-3 with a 0.94 goals against average, but has allowed only nine goals in his last 1104 minutes of action (0.73 gaa) since taking over the starting goalkeeping position. The UMBC netminder was 32nd in the country in save percentage with a mark of 82.1 entering play this week.He made his first official career start on Oct. 2 vs. Binghamton and posted a team season-best nine saves. The nine saves was the most for a Retriever goalkeeper since Steve King posted 12 at Virginia Tech on Oct. 14, 2008. Louisignau is also no stranger to post-season play as he started all four of the Cavaliers' post-season games, posting a goals against average of 1.00 in those games.
Two of Milo Kapor's three career goals have been game-winners in big spots on the road. Prior to his dramatic score at PSU, the Canadian blasted in the eventual GWG in the 41stminute in the 2-1 America East semifinal victory at UNH.
Sophomore midfielder Mark Lubetkin scored both of his goals in 2009 in the America East Tournament. Mark's father David, earned four letters in men's soccer at Princeton from 1978-81.
Sophomore defender Liam Paddock scored his first career goal vs. Hartford; freshman backDaniel Welsh added his second and both have come vs. America East competition. Paddock tied his compatriot from the U.K. with his second career goal vs. Stony Brook on Nov. 10.
Team Notes: UMBC is 27th in the nation in scoring, averaging 1.89 goals per game. The Retrievers were sixth in the nation in scoring in 2009, averaging 2.15 goals per contest. Princeton is ninth in the nation in scornig at 2.12 goals per game.
UMBC has a five-game road unbeaten streak (4-0-1) alive and is 5-3-1 away from UMBC this season.
The Retrievers are 8-0-1 when scoring the first goal this season and 9-0-0 when leading at halftime. They are also 2-0-3 in 2010 in overtime, after posting a mark of 0-3-8 in their previous 11 overtime contests. Prior to the 2-1 overtime win over La Salle, UMBC's last overtime win occurred at Maine (2-1) in the 2006 season.
With the back-to-back wins over La Salle and Mount St. Mary's, UMBC recorded back-to-back come-from-behind wins for the first time since early in the 2000 season, when they rallied to defeat Holy Cross (4-3, 2ot) and Delaware (2-1, 2ot) on Sept. 3 and Sept. 6.
Caringi's goal vs. Binghamton broke a streak of five straight contests in which UMBC has allowed the game's first goal.
The Retrievers had posted come-from-behind victories in the 2-1 home win over La Salle on Sept. 15 and the 3-2 victory at Mount St. Mary's on Sept. 18. The Retrievers trailed the Mount, 2-0, at halftime and rallied to win from a two-goal deficit for the first time since a 4-3 overtime win (they trailed 3-1) over Coastal Carolina on Oct. 11, 1997. The last time they won in 90 minutes after trailing by two goals occurred a year earlier when they erased a 2-0 deficit at Winthrop and defeated the Eagles, 4-3, on Oct. 21, 1996.