San Diego, California - The San Diego State men’s soccer team begins its quest for a national championship on Thursday when it plays host to UNLV in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at SDSU Sports Deck. Match time is set for 7 p.m. PT, and the contest will be streamed live on GoAztecs.com with Jordan Carruth handling the play-by-play responsibilities.
The Aztecs are making their ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2006. SDSU is 9-6-1 in 16 all-time postseason matches, with a runner-up finish to Clemson in the 1987 championship final marking its best performance in the NCAAs thus far. The Scarlet and Black also advanced to the tournament in 1969, 1981, 1982, 1988, 1989 and 2005.
The Aztecs’ 9-4-5 record this year marks the program’s best regular-season ledger since the 2011 campaign when SDSU posted a 10-6-3 mark.
The Aztecs are 5-2-2 against teams with a .500 record or better this season, including a 3-2-2 mark vs. opponents ranked in either the NSCAA or Soccer America Top 25 polls. The seeds for an extraordinary season were sown early in the year when SDSU pulled off a monumental 1-0 victory over No. 1 Akron in the home opener on Sept. 2 in front of an overflow crowd of 2,041 energetic fans.
In addition, the Aztecs recorded their first-ever sweep of Pac-12 rival Washington and captured two victories over another conference foe California for the first time since 2009. SDSU also snapped Stanford’s five-match winning streak to open league play with a 1-1 draw against the eventual Pac-12 champion Cardinal at home. With the help of those performances, the Aztecs finished third in the conference race with a 4-3-3 mark after a fifth-place standing was predicted in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll.
On the national stage, the Aztecs occupy the 19th position in the latest NSCAA Division I coaches poll and are ranked 15th for the fifth consecutive week by Soccer America. The Scarlet and Black was also listed at No. 26 in the College Soccer News Top 30 rankings.
The Aztecs have appeared in the Soccer America rankings for 11 consecutive weeks, climbing to as high as No. 7 on Sept. 12. Additionally, SDSU has landed in 11 of 13 NSCAA coaches polls this year, earning a high ranking of 11th on Sept. 13.
The Aztecs take their home-field advantage to heart as demonstrated by their 29-8-3 record (.763) in non-conference play on Montezuma Road since the start of the 2010 campaign. SDSU has been particularly tough at home against non-league foes the past three years, compiling an impressive 14-3-1 mark (.805). Since head coach Lev Kirshner took over the reins in 2000, the Scarlet and Black is 56-28-8 (.652) against non-conference opponents at SDSU Sports Deck.
Defense has been a trademark all season for the Aztecs, who enter the week ranked third nationally in shutout percentage (0.61) and 10th in goals against average (0.62). SDSU has allowed just 12 goals this year, becoming just the third team in program history to give up 12 or fewer scores in the first 18 games of the season, joining the 1988 (7) and 2005 (9) squads. Not surprisingly, the Aztecs made the NCAA Tournament in all three of those years.
Earlier this season, SDSU held its opponents scoreless for a span of 598 minutes and 35 seconds of game action and allowed the fewest number of goals (1) in its first six matches of the year in school history. The previous low of two goals was accomplished by the 2005 Aztec team in the first season of Pac-12 men’s soccer on Montezuma Road.
Individually, goalkeeper Adam Allmaras is currently fifth in the nation with an .855 save percentage and is ranked 14th with a .662 goals against average, both tops in the conference. The La Costa Canyon High product also leads the Pac-12 with 71 saves and 11 shutouts. In addition, forward Travis Nicklaw is tied for fifth in the league with a team-high five goals, highlighted by game-winners vs. No. 1 Akron (Sept. 2), crosstown foe San Diego (Sept. 25), No. 16 Washington (Oct. 2) and Cal (Oct. 23). Nicklaw’s four decisive tallies are good for second in the conference and rank 22nd in the country.
Meanwhile, forward Jeroen Meefout is tied for 10th in the Pac-12 with four goals on the year. Earlier in September, the Aztec junior was named the most outstanding offensive player of the Courtyard Marriott San Diego Central Tournament after recording a pair of braces in victories over UT Rio Grande Valley and Memphis.
The Pac-12 released its all-league teams this week, with seven SDSU players earning such distinction in a vote of conference coaches. Travis Nicklaw and Pablo Pelaez garnered second-team accolades, while Adam Allmaras, Matt Callahan, Casey Macias, Jeroen Meefout and Michael Sauers received honorable mention. The seven all-Pac-12 selections match the team’s second-highest total since SDSU joined the league in 2005. The Aztecs had 10 all-conference honorees in 2010 to go along with seven in 2009 and 2011.
San Diego State has collected several additional accolades at the conference and national level this year. Adam Allmaras (Sept. 6/Oct. 25), Jeroen Meefout (Sept. 13) and Travis Nicklaw (Sept. 27/Oct. 4) earned Pac-12 Player of Week honors. The Aztecs’ five weekly Pac-12 nods are the most in the same season since SDSU joined the conference in 2005. Not to be outdone, Nicklaw (Sept. 6) and Allmaras (Oct. 4) were named to the Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week, while Meefout (Sept. 13) and defender Matt Callahan (Oct. 3) received the same recognition from College Soccer News.
Midfielders Pablo Pelaez, AJ Vergara and forward Daniel Sagno were each named to the mid-season Top Drawer Soccer Freshman Top 100 list on Oct. 17. Pelaez was ranked 21st, Vergara landed in the 79th spot, while Sagno was listed 89th. With their selections, the Aztecs tied UCLA for the most Pac-12 players on the website’s initial freshman rankings of the 2016 campaign.
San Diego State is coming off a 0-0 draw in double overtime at UCLA, snapping a six-match losing streak to the Bruins in Los Angeles. The Aztecs are 3-1 this season following a tie and have won their last two matches on the heels of a deadlock, prevailing over No. 16 Washington (Oct. 2) and California (Oct. 23) in succession.
The Aztecs are 9-0-2 this year when leading in a match, including a 4-0-1 mark when maintaining the upper hand at halftime. In addition, SDSU has posted a spotless 7-0 record on Sundays this season and is 7-2 in one-goal matches.
Now in his 17th season, Lev Kirshner is tied with Kevin Grimes of California as the longest tenured head coach in Pac-12 men’s soccer. Under Kirshner’s direction, the Aztecs own an 80-63-20 overall record in non-conference play.
UNLV: The Rebels (10-11-1, 5-4-1 WAC) have won four straight, including a 2-1 victory over Air Force in the the Western Athletic Conference championship match on Sunday in Orem, Utah. UNLV used a pair of goals by tournament MVP and first-team all-league honoree Danny Musovski to become the lowest-seeded team to win the WAC men’s soccer championship. Earlier, the Rebels dispatched UT Rio Grande Valley in their tournament opener, before upsetting top-seeded Utah Valley to advance to the finals. Despite missing four matches, Musovski ranks second in the WAC with team highs of 68 shots, 30 points and 12 goals for the year. The Rebels’ junior forward also has three game winners to his credit, while 36 of his 68 attempts have been directed on goal. In addition, freshman midfielder Timo Mehlich has amassed six goals of his own, which ranks eighth in the WAC, while the junior trio of forwards Marquis Pitts, Memo Diaz and midfielder Oscar Velasquez have recorded four tallies apiece. Redshirt freshman Enrique Adame has appeared in 13 matches at goalkeeper this year, posting a 1.49 goals against average and a .743 save percentage. He has started eight of the Rebels’ last nine games, including the WAC tournament. As a team, UNLV occupy the second spot in the WAC in several statistical categories, including goals (38), assists (38) and points (114). However, the Rebels are last in the league with 43 goals allowed (1.95/gm). UNLV alumnus Rich Ryerson is in his seventh season at the helm of the Rebel program, compiling a 58-72-11 record overall. He was named WAC and NSCAA Region Coach of the Year in 2014 after directing his alma mater to the conference regular-season and tournament title, followed by an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. SERIES HISTORY: The Aztecs own a 19-11-5 advantage in 35 all-time meetings, including a 13-4-2 record at home. However, UNLV captured the last encounter between the two squads by a 3-2 count on Montezuma Road in 2015. SDSU is 46-29-7 against current WAC schools that sponsor men’s soccer.