By: Andrew Utz ~Staff Writer~
Despite a loss in the final round of the Big East tournament, Xavier will host the program’s first home game in an NCAA tournament against the Monmouth University Hawks on Nov. 20.
The No. 11 Muskies (13-5-2) received an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament after falling to the Providence Friars in the Big East title match.
In a press conference, head coach Andy Fleming said that Xavier’s hosting is a big step forward for the program.
“We’ve been fortunate to have achieved a lot of milestones in the short time I’ve been here,” Fleming said in an interview. “There was a point where we were saying, ‘What’s next?’ and ‘What more can we do?’ And I always had a vision.”
“The day I interviewed for this job, I was out on the field and pictured a home NCAA tournament game with the hill full on a cold fall night,” Fleming said. “I talked about that with the guys earlier in the season and challenged them to have visions of their own.”
En route to the championship game, the Musketeers won a semifinal match against Georgetown with a crucial strike from sophomore Jalen Brown in the 64th minute.
In the Big East finals against Providence, junior Alex Risdale posted the first goal of the match in the 23rd minute. A deflection had left the ball at Risdale’s feet.
Providence struck back three minutes later. The shot blasted past junior goalkeeper Vince Shaw into the upper left side of the net.
The Musketeers kept up the pressure through the rest of the half, with three additional chances that were never converted into the leading goal.
In the second half, Xavier held its line for an additional 35 minutes until the Friars found their opening on a corner kick. The Musketeers fought back but could not capitalize to recover from the deficit.
The 2-1 final score marked the first regulation loss for the Musketeers since Aug. 31.
The Monmouth Hawks are members of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and won their conference tournament, finishing with an overall record of 11-3-6.
The team boasts a seven-game winning streak and has given up only nine goals this season.
Should the Muskies beat Monmouth in the first round, they would face the Indiana Hoosers, which received a first-round bye, on Nov. 23.
That meeting would be the second between the Muskies and the Hoosiers, with the first being in the 2012 NCAA tournament. In that game, the Musketeers lost 4-1 to Indiana, the eventual champion.
Other Big East teams Georgetown, Creighton and conference champion Providence will also compete in the NCAA tournament. All three teams received first-round byes and will compete on Nov. 23.
Xavier kicks off against Monmouth at 7 p.m. on Nov. 20 at the Xavier Soccer Complex.
As they did in regular season games, full-time undergraduate students can attend the matchup for free by swiping their ALL Cards at the front gate.
Edited by Andrew Koch