Hawks Advance to NCAA Division II Final FourNovember 25, 2013

With a pair of victories this cold November weekend, the Rockhurst University men’s soccer team has earned a trip Dec. 5 to Evans, Ga., and a shot at the NCAA Division II championship trophy.

The Hawks held off a strong offense from the top-ranked Lindenwood University and, with a first-half goal from midfielder Paolo Scoppola, claimed a 1-0 victory in the quarterfinal round of the tournament Sunday at Rockhurst’s Bourke Field.

Scoppola said getting that goal, a 16-foot shot that ricocheted off the goal post and came off of a throw-in from defender Oussie Gueye, meant waiting.

He said he felt good coming off Friday’s victory against Lewis University, and that he hoped the team would find an opportunity against the tough Lindenwood offense.

“The only thing we needed in that game was patience,” he said.

In both Friday’s and Sunday’s games, head coach Tony Tocco said the Hawks played to their strengths.

“I told them ‘Play together as a team, play as a team at all times.’ That’s what me and the other coaches tried to tell them all year and that’s what they did,” he said. “Most of the time what wins a game is the little things.”

Tocco credited the team’s defense for keeping the ball out of the goal and largely out of the penalty box, despite the fact that Lindenwood clocked a majority of possession time.

Goalkeeper and senior Ryan Bass said going into the match Rockhurst, No. 14 overall and a three seed in the tournament, was the underdog  going up against Lindenwood. But he said there was a strong group of returning players coming into the season following two years of dramatic tournament losses —  falling in a penalty kick shootout in 2011 and an overtime loss last year —which gave him some reason to believe that this could be the year.

“Being so close the last two years, and with the group of seniors that we had, we knew that we could get it done,” he said.

Having made it to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament, Scoppola said the team has already made Rockhurst history. But he said he and the rest of the team also have their own reasons to stay focused.

“This is my senior year, so I keep thinking every game could be my last game,” he said. “I keep trying to do the same thing and make it last as long as I can.”

Bass, Scoppola and Tocco all thanked the crowds that braved the cold to cheer them on both at Friday’s game against Lewis University and the game Sunday.

“It’s always great to have fans at your games,” Bass said. “Because of our schedule, these were the first two big home games for us, and just to have a crowd with your friends cheering you on makes a difference.”

And as the team prepares to travel south next week for its semifinal match against a No. 2 seed, Southern New Hampshire University, he said they’ll try to take that momentum with them.

“It’s going to be a battle and that’s what you expect when you get down to a final four,” Bass said. “We’re just going to go down there and take care of business.”

The semifinal match is scheduled for 4 p.m. CDT Dec. 5 at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga.

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