Tulsa soccer headed to NCAAs after C-USA championship
BY JOSH HALEY World Correspondent
Sunday, November 18, 2012
11/18/12 at 6:27 AM
Some might have thought 2012 would be a rebuilding year for the Tulsa men's soccer team after last season, when it missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
Apparently, the Golden Hurricane was too impatient to rebuild.
"They were not going to accept not winning a conference championship," said Tulsa head coach Tom McIntosh.
Thanks to an impressive conference tournament performance, Tulsa captured its fourth Conference USA championship and an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"Our players expect to get there (NCAA Tournament) every year," said McIntosh. "They were fired up all season long and committed to winning the conference championship."
After receiving a first-round bye, Tulsa plays at South Florida looking to avenge an early season 2-1 loss to the Bulls.
"At our first team meeting, I told them not to put any limits on themselves as individuals or as a team," said McIntosh.
Tulsa's strong run down the stretch could be credited to a strong nonconference schedule that included four games against top-15 teams.
"We schedule tough for a number of reasons, but one advantage is having a high ratings percentage index (RPI) and getting a first-round bye (in the NCAA Tournament)," said McIntosh.
Not only did Tulsa schedule tough, it won tough games, knocking off No. 3 New Mexico in double overtime and No. 11 Creighton 2-0.
In the Conference USA Tournament, Tulsa earned a bye to the semifinal round, where it edged Alabama-Birmingham 1-0 in double overtime thanks to a goal by former Holland Hall standout Jon Wright.
Tulsa avenged a 1-0 regular season loss to Southern Methodist with a runaway 5-0 victory in the championship game.
"We've just continued to get better as the season has gone on," said McIntosh. "We were very disciplined defensively."
As for the offensive outpouring, freshman forward Christian Mata remained the spark plug, registering a goal and two assists in the title game.
"We expected him to make an immediate impact," said McIntosh of Mata, a former Union standout who leads the team with 13 goals and six assists. "We knew he was physically ready and he has a good soccer brain."
Christian's brother Omar Mata, also a Union graduate, along with Akeil Barrett and Bryce Follensbee all have at least 17 points on the season to help the Golden Hurricane outscore its opponents 46-21.
Goalkeeper Mark Pais has played every game and has 70 saves and seven shutouts on the season, giving Tulsa the unique combination that could help the Hurricane win its fifth NCAA Tournament game in its last four appearances.
"The truth of the matter is that it's not just another game," said McIntosh. "When you lose in the NCAA Tournament, you have a very empty feeling as a player and as a coach."
Original Print Headline: TU soccer back to NCAAs after 1-year absence
NCAA men's soccer tournament
Tulsa at South Florida
5 p.m. Sunday