Redshirt senior Eric Dick prepares for a shot by Xavier on Nov. 8. Photo by Jimmy Lafakis.
JOSHUA DOERING | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
For a second consecutive season, the Butler University men’s soccer team will be part of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a season-long goal to make the NCAA tournament,” redshirt senior goalie Eric Dick said. “It really puts into perspective how much work we’ve done, and you can think about it as another success for this team and another thing we’ve accomplished. The next mentality is, it’s just another start. It’s the start to season three.”
This year, the Bulldogs received an at-large bid and host Lipscomb University Nov. 16 in the first round.
“This is a whole new season now,” senior midfielder Eric Leonard said. “Anything can happen in the NCAA, and what we have to do is take it one game at a time.”
Last season, Butler was the No. 15 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and got a bye in the first round. In the second round, they hosted Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
After a scoreless 90 minutes, the match went into two overtimes, neither of which could determine a winner. SIUE then advanced in a penalty shootout, 5-4, ending Butler’s 2016 season.
“I think it’s details,” head coach Paul Snape said. “You look at last year’s experience, none of us wanted it. I still thought if we could play that game again, we would have won it as well. I think we played a pretty good — pretty good is the word. I don’t think we were great, but the ball just wasn’t bouncing on our side.”
Butler finished this regular season with a 12-4-2 record and went 8-1 in Big East play, earning their first Big East regular season championship. As the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, the Bulldogs fell to Xavier University in a penalty shootout, 4-1, in the semifinals.
Lipscomb automatically qualified for the NCAA tournament as the Atlantic Sun conference tournament champions. The Bison posted an 11-7-2 mark in the regular season, going 2-4 in conference play.
“They like the ball, they like to expand, they like to do some possession,” Snape said. “We’ve got to do a good job of being disciplined with our defending, but I don’t want to just sit back. I think we’re going to have to be aggressive, get them on the back foot.”
Both the Bulldogs and Bison posted 2-2 records against those four opponents. Butler defeated South Florida and lost to SIUE. Lipscomb did just the opposite.
They went a combined 2-0 against Evansville and 0-2 against Louisville. Lipscomb faced Louisville in an exhibition match before the season.
In those four games, the two teams had identical minus one goal differentials.
The winner will travel to face No. 16 seed Virginia Commonwealth University on Nov. 19.
“At the end of the day, you have one game in front of you,” Dick said. “And you have to focus on that game, because all that other exciting stuff might not happen.”
Kickoff at the Sellick Bowl tomorrow night is scheduled for 7 p.m.