Members of the Case Western Reserve University men's soccer team gather in celebration

CWRU men’s soccer qualifies for NCAA tournament; hosts first two rounds

The Case Western Reserve University men’s soccer team never looks too far ahead. That’s why, when goal-setting this season, the Spartans opted not to home in on a specific objective, such as making it to the NCAA tournament.

But they made it anyway. Now, their sights are set on round one of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championships. The Spartans (14-3-1) will take on the Keystone College Giants (12-4-1) Saturday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. at Case Western Reserve’s DiSanto Field.

And though the outcome of the game could propel the team to the second round—or end its season—the team’s goals haven’t changed.

“We’re really focusing on it like it’s just another normal game,” said senior defender Christian Lytle. “What we did this season worked well for us, so we’re really taking it one game at a time and trying not to worry about things out of our control.”

The Spartans earned a spot in the NCAA tournament—the team’s third ever—with a pool ‘C’ at-large bid, which is awarded to strong teams that didn’t win their conference and automatically qualify. CWRU finished second in the University Athletic Association and is ranked No. 19 in the United Soccer Coaches Regular Season poll.

Home field advantage

Case Western Reserve University was selected as a host for the first two rounds of the tournament based on the soccer team’s strength this season, taking such factors into consideration as the quality of wins.

The team has excelled at home this season, picking up 10 wins and just one loss at DiSanto Field.

“One of our goals was to defend our home because this season, we had the vast majority of our games at home,” said Lytle. “Getting to extend our postseason career at our home field allows us to [do that] once again. It’s really cool.”

Head Coach Brandon Bianco hopes hosting the first two rounds of the tournament will give the team added confidence.

“Playing at home is great,” Bianco said. “There’s a reason why we’re getting to play at home. It’s kind of a feather in the cap of this season that the guys have had. It’s a reward for being one of the best teams in the country, which we certainly are.”

A solid season

This weekend, senior forward Alex Besl expects the team to build upon its strong defensive showing this season.

The team has a 0.92 goals-against average, allowing 17 goals during the 18-game season.

“Our biggest thing, and what we’ve built this program on this year, is our defensive organization,” Besl said. “What we look to do is press as a unit and look to turn the ball over and be in good spots to play it forward.”

Offensively, the team has averaged 2.44 goals per game, with Besl and junior midfielder Garrett Winter leading the team with eight goals each this season.

The team’s biggest strength, though, doesn’t come from skill, said Bianco. Instead, it comes from chemistry and camaraderie.

“It’s really a group that’s special in a lot of ways, and that allows them to do a lot of cool things athletically because of how they’re made up,” Bianco said. “It’s really a collective unit.”

Weekend outlook

The first round of the tournament will be composed of two games: CWRU vs. Keystone, and Capital University Crusaders (14-4-0) vs. Westminster (Pa.) College Titans (14-5-0).

The winner of those two games will advance to the second round, which will be held Sunday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m. at DiSanto Field.

Tickets for the games will cost:

  • General admission: $6
  • Student w/ID and senior citizens: $3
  • Children (ages 3-12): $2
  • Children under 3: Free

The first 100 CWRU students (with an ID) will receive free admission to the CWRU games.

Those who can’t attend the games can watch a live video webcast and get live statistics.

The team that wins in round two will head to the sectional rounds next weekend; dates and locations are to be determined.

Read more about the tournament and teams.