UU men’s soccer team to host NCAA tourney game

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Urbana University will make history on Sunday at 2 p.m. when it hosts the first NCAA Championship event at UU Stadium. The 13th-ranked men’s soccer team will welcome No. 21 Mercyhurst in second-round action of the 2016 NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Championship, in what is sure to be an entertaining rematch from the regular season meeting between these teams that ended in a 1-1 draw. Tickets for the match cost $5 for general admission and $3 for ages 12 and under, plus 65 and older.

“I think what it gives to the university is a lot of publicity around the area,” said UU head men’s soccer coach and Mercyhurst alum Nick Roberts. “We’ll have a big crowd here on Sunday with a lot of kids locally from Urbana and Springfield. I think this game will give a lot of visibility to our program and that’s great.”

UU, which enters the second-round match at 13-4-1, is making its second straight NCAA appearance as it comes off the first Mountain East Conference Finals game played in school history. UU fell in that game 2-1 against Charleston last week, but is hoping to improve on last year’s historic run in the NCAA tournament.

A year ago, UU won the first-ever NCAA tournament game for any sport at the school (1-0 at Millersville) and then lost in the Atlantic Region semifinals to finish among the top 16 teams in the country.

This year, the Blue Knights are once again the third seed in the region but will host the second-seeded Lakers, who are considered the home team in this matchup. UU and MU are familiar foes, most recently playing at UU Stadium back on Sept. 13 (1-1 draw). The two teams have met annually since 2010 with Mercyhurst holding the series lead 4-2-1.

The Blue Knights are led by a mix of veterans and young players, including senior All-American candidates Nathan Jones at goalkeeper and midfielder Lewis Dunne. Jones is at the top of the national statistical categories in multiple categories, including save percentage, while Dunne has contributed 18 points with a team-high six assists paired with six goals. The duo has left a lasting legacy on the pitch and hopes to add to their Blue Knight accolades with a tournament run.

Mercyhurst comes to Urbana with a 15-4-1 ledger and most recently captured the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship. The Lakers have won 10 out of the previous 11 matches, and are led by graduate student Thom Derks (22 goals) and freshman Jorge Gonzalez (14 goals).

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