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November 10, 2016

First-Round Bye Set for No. 1 South Siders

    This weekend the undefeated University of Chicago men’s soccer team will host a three-team regional to kick off the NCAA tournament. As UAA champions, the Maroons hold the best record in the country at 16–0–2, so it was no surprise that they were selected as the No. 1 seed. The resulting first-round bye means that their first game of the post-season will be on Sunday at 5 p.m. against the winner of Saturday’s Dubuque vs. Westminster (Missouri) matchup. To fourth-year captain DJ Weis, the first-round bye is “a great accomplishment and a reward for the hard work we put in this season. However, it doesn't mean anything once the games start so it was more of a brief celebration before moving on.”

    Indeed, the Maroons have worked hard. They have already set records for wins in a season at 16 wins and shutouts in a season at 12 shutouts. Their offensive firepower combined with their defensive strength has generated an incredible amount of momentum. “We feel pretty strong going into the tournament. The team is playing well and we feel like we have a shot to beat any team in the country,” said third-year goalkeeper Hill Bonin, who also holds the record for career shutouts at 24 shutouts. He said that the focus of the weekend will be on “staying calm and composed. It’s so easy to get worked up about playing harder than usual and being the hero but we really just need to do what we have been doing all year.” Weis agreed, saying, “Our team is approaching the tournament in a similar fashion to our regular season games. It’s one game at a time and we’re just constantly looking to improve our own standard.”

    The Maroons will have a chance to scope out the competition on Saturday as the Dubuque Spartans (13–5) face the Westminster College Bluejays (14–3–1) at 5 p.m. The Spartans earned an at-large bid to the postseason despite losing 0–4 to Luther in the Iowa Intercollegiate Conference semifinals. The Bluejays scored an automatic bid by beating Spalding 3–2 to win the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship. Westminster is currently on a seven-game winning streak, but can’t brag about its strength of schedule, as none of its conference opponents earned bids to the postseason.

    All three teams in the regional this weekend have shown an ability to put the ball in the back of the net all season. The Bluejays average 2.94 goals per game, while the Maroons have 2.56, and the Spartans 2.50. However, UChicago has a clear advantage in goals against, averaging only 0.27, while Dubuque and Westminster have 1.22 and 1.09, respectively. Fans can expect to see an offensive battle on Saturday, but on Sunday the Maroons’ defensive domination will likely hinder the success of their opponent. 

    Weis says that the team’s goal is “to be better than we were at Wash U on Saturday and show that on the field this Sunday.”

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