After already securing the best season in program history, the Fort Hays State men’s soccer team has its sights set on a national championship.
The No. 11-ranked Tigers are two wins from an NCAA Division II national title as they prepare for a national semifinal match against Barry at 10 a.m. CT (11 a.m. ET) Thursday inside Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh.
The Tigers (17-2-1) head to Pittsburgh with a 14-match winning streak and 15-match unbeaten streak.
“It’s about who’s playing the best at the right time,” Fort Hays State coach Brett Parker said. “… You get to this point, anybody can win it. If you’re good enough to get to the final four, you’re capable of winning it. That’ll be our objective — to go there and keep playing well.”
The Tigers, back-to-back MIAA champions, advanced to the national semifinals for the first time in the eight-year history of the program after notching a 3-1 win over Northeastern State on Nov. 15 in the Central Region Championship and a 2-0 victory over Ohio Valley in the national quarterfinals on Nov. 17 at FHSU Soccer Stadium.
“It’s the one game (national semifinal) that we haven’t played before,” Parker said. “We’re excited for the opportunity and to really show the country — that despite the region that we come out of that doesn’t get a lot of respect nationally — that we’re as good as the teams in the other regions.
“I think we play with that chip on our shoulder all the time. Hopefully we go there and play the way we play and show the rest of Division II that we’re a top program.”
The Tigers are the most potent offensive team in the country, leading Division II with 69 goals on the season. FHSU has also been stingy on defense, allowing just four goals in the last 10 games.
“We have an excellent back four, but it’s really the team defending the guys in front of them,” Parker said. “A lot of the goals we gave up early in the season, we gave up a lot of set-piece goals; we’ve changed some things on that. Since then, a lot of the goals have just been kind of mistakes. When you play how we want to play and you build out of the back, that’s going to happen sometimes.”
FHSU's Santiago Agudelo leads the nation with 26 goals of the season but the junior suffered a foot injury in the Northeastern State match and sat out against Ohio Valley. Freshmen Alonso Rodriguez and Rogelio Lopez each have six goals on the season.
Barry, which is located in Miami Shores, Fla., enters the semifinal 15-4-2 after beating No. 8-ranked Lander on penalty kicks 2-1 in the national quarterfinals. Barry will be making its third trip to the national semifinals and first since 2000.
Flavio Colasanti leads the Buccaneers with 12 goals on the season.
The other semifinal features No. 23-ranked West Chester vs. Cal Poly Pomona at 1 p.m. CT. The semifinal winner will play in the national championship match at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.