UMAC and NCCAA tournament times clash resulting in a disappointing finish for the North Central men’s soccer team
A confusing and disappointing finish for the North Central men’s soccer team brought an end to a historical year. Despite multiple tournament qualifications and an abundance of goals scored, the Rams still fell short of competing in any national tournament for post-season play.
North Central is a member of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, a part of the NCAA Division III. The Rams are also a member of the NCCAA, or the National Christian College Athletic Association. Within the NCCAA, the university is a part of the North Central Division II regional conference. This year, being a part of both of these became a source of conflict for the men’s soccer team.
According to men’s soccer coach Jake Smith, a team is not eligible to compete in the NCCAA national tournament if they are participating in NCAA Division III post-season play. That being said, because North Central was in fourth place in the UMAC conference, they were obligated to participate in NCAA Division III post-season play, which then made them ineligible to compete in NCCAA post-season play.
The chances of North Central winning their way into the NCCAA national tournament was very likely due to the schedule in which the Rams would have competed.
For some of the players, competing in the NCCAA tournament was preferred over competing in the UMAC tournament.
“Technically it would have been possible (to make it to the regional championship), however we had to prioritize our Division III (NCAA) membership first,” Smith said.
North Central did, however, apply for an at-large bid, which is a drawing that would have allowed them to go to nationals, but they did not win the bid.
“Overall, it’s pretty frustrating to know that we had one of the best, if not the best, season in school history and we don’t even get rewarded for it,” said junior team captain, Luke Majerle. “It felt like we invested a ton of work into our season and were robbed of our results.”
The Rams saw huge success during their fall season, as their depth chart was one of the biggest they’ve had in years. With a handful of veterans returning for their junior and senior year, the team had a lot of leadership that was lacking in seasons past.
In addition to their historic success, Smith was awarded UMAC coach of the year.
Junior defender, David Afolabi, was chosen to the first team All-UMAC awards list along with sophomore Ian Brekhus and junior Steven Klapak.
“On the positive side, our guys are hungry for next season,” Majerle said.