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Fordham’s surprising run continues as NCAA field narrows to eight

Top-ranked Wake Forest will face Stanford in one of four quarterfinal matches this weekend

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons played host to the Providence Friars in NCAA men's soccer action at Spry Soccer Stadium on August 27, 2017 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The Demon Deacons defeated the Friars 4-1.  (Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film)
Philadelphia Union Academy grad Mark McKenzie and Wake Forest are one win away from a trip to the College Cup at Talen Energy Stadium
Brian Westerholt / Sports On Film

In the exercise of “one of these things is not like the other,” Fordham is clearly the oddball among the final eight teams left standing on the road to the College Cup at Talen Energy Stadium in a couple weeks.

The Atlantic 10 champions have compiled a 14-5-3 record, but even the strongest runs for teams from smaller conferences in men’s college soccer are usually snuffed out in the grind that is the NCAA Championship.

The Rams secured a spot among the nation’s elite and a Saturday meeting with North Carolina in the most dramatic of fashion, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 2-2 draw against Duke with an 87th minute equalizer and two scoreless overtimes before winning a penalty shootout in 10 rounds. Reserve goalkeeper Jordan Black converted the decisive penalty kick - Lancaster native Matt Miller also scored in the shootout - and starting keeper Rashid Nuhu stopped Max Moser’s penalty to end it.

The trip to the quarterfinals isn’t just a first for the men’s soccer program at Fordham, but a first for any men’s Division 1 program at the school.

North Carolina cruised to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 win over SMU thanks to the contributions of a couple players with ties to the region in former Philadelphia Union Academy midfielder Jack Skahan and Reading United forward Jelani Pieters.

Skahan’s game-winner was actually a cross that found its way into the back of the net in the 50th minute and Pieters put the game away in the 83rd minute 49 seconds after subbing back into the game. The goal was his ninth of the season and his third in the past four games for the Tar Heels.

The trio of former Union Academy teammates - Mark McKenzie, Justin McMaster and Joey DeZart - are one win away from a trip to the College Cup with Wake Forest, but a familiar foe stands in the way in Stanford, which ended Reading United duo Frantzdy Pierrot and Alex Bouillinnec’s run with Coastal Carolina with a 2-0 win on Sunday night.

Stanford knocked off the Demon Deacons in the quarterfinals en route to the program’s first national championship in 2015 and then beat them on penalties in last year’s College Cup final.

Wake beat Butler 2-0 on Sunday night for their third straight clean sheet with McKenzie in the starting lineup. As a team, Wake Forest has conceded just once with McKenzie in the starting lineup since he took over the starting role for the injured Kevin Politz. DeZart played nine minutes and McMaster 24 minutes off the bench in the game, which hung in the balance before Brandon Servania’s 52nd minute goal and Jon Bakero’s insurance goal in the 87th.

Akron is back on the cusp of another College Cup berth after surviving Wisconsin 3-2 in an exciting back and forth affair. Reading United alum Mike Catalano twice equalized for the Badgers but Stuart Holthusen’s 92nd minute goal sent the Zips through to a rematch of the 2010 College Cup final against Louisville on Friday night.

Louisville ended Colgate’s unlikely run with a burst of offense late in the first half when Tate Schmitt headed home a Tim Kubel corner and six minutes later Walker Andriot was credited with a goal to double the lead and send the Cardinals through to their second straight quarterfinal appearance.

The Big 10 will be assured a representative in Chester after both Indiana and Michigan State advanced with identical 2-1 wins on Saturday.

Hunter Barone and Jimmy Fiscus scored for Michigan State to erase an early 1-0 lead for Western Michigan and end what has been an impressive season for a team normally not in the national conversation.

A win over Indiana on Friday night would put Michigan State into the College Cup for the first time since 1968. But it won’t be an easy task.

The lone unbeaten team left in the field, the Hoosiers improved their record to 17-0-5 with a goal in each half from Cory Thomas and Francesco Moore to end New Hampshire’s run. The Hoosiers are seeking the program’s first appearance in the College Cup since the 2012 won the school’s eighth national title.