CMU men’s soccer team to face UCCS in second trip to the RMAC tournament
Micah Conrads realized his 6-foot-5 frame would be beneficial in more than basketball.
The Colorado Mesa University sophomore knew he could use it to his advantage as a goalkeeper in soccer.
“I’m big so I’m not scared to go win a ball and get hit,” Conrads said. “Normally, I’m the one that does more of the hitting because of my size.”
He will need to be sharp in net for the Mavericks to win their first RMAC tournament game in the program’s six-year history. Mesa (8-6-4) is the No. 5 seed and plays at No. 4 University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (8-8-1) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The winner advances to the semifinals against top seed Regis. The RMAC tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Colorado Mesa has lost or tied its past six games, but defeated UCCS 1-0 earlier this season in Colorado Springs the last time the Mavericks won this season.
“They are very physical,” CMU coach Josh Pittman said of UCCS. “They’re probably licking their chops when they see the matchup. They are very physical, big and strong and we’re probably the smallest team in the conference. They put a lot of balls in the box. Hopefully, we’ll defend it well.
“I think we’ll control the ball quite a bit against these guys. I felt we did the first time we played them for the majority of the game. Hopefully we can expose them and get a couple goals.”
Conrads was in net for the win over UCCS, one of Mesa’s school record nine shutouts this season.
“He is very big,” Pittman said. “He definitely takes up a lot of space back there. That gives the players in front of him confidence to play. He’s very organized. That limits the number of shots Micah has to face.”
Conrads is second in the RMAC with a 0.85 goals against average and has saved 75.4 percent of the shots against him. He received the RMAC defensive player of the week award earlier this season.
“I don’t think it should be player of the week, but defense of the week,” Conrads said. “Along with shutouts, I know I’ve had a few games with one shot on goal, three shots on goal. The defense does a lot of the work. They make my job easy.”
Conrads, 22, has been successful for the Mavericks while balancing classes, serving the Army Reserve and getting married last weekend while one of his older brothers was back from serving for the Air Force in Afghanistan.
“When I was 16, one of my brothers got married at 20,” Conrads said. “I looked up to him a ton. I always thought I’d get married at a young age. Marriage doesn’t scare me because of my faith. Marriage is something given to us from God. I don’t worry about her changing or me changing because we both have the same spiritual foundation.”
He followed another brother into the U.S. Forest Service and worked for a summer after high school. He has a job waiting for him after he graduates in December 2014.
Colorado Mesa is looking at the RMAC tournament as a new beginning.
The Mavericks (9-6-3), who are 2-6-1 in their past nine games, are ranked eighth in the latest NCAA South Central Region rankings and will likely need to win the RMAC tournament to return to the NCAA tournament this season.
Six teams qualify for the NCAA tournament. Three of the six will go to the tournament champions of the RMAC, Heartland Conference and the Lone Star Conference.
Mesa is the No. 6 seed and begins the tournament at noon Wednesday at No. 3 seed Metro State (12-4-2).
The Mavericks have defeated Metro State in the past three meetings, including in the first round of the RMAC tournament last year, but the Roadrunners are 8-0-1 at home this season and are 9-2-1 in their past 12 games. Metro State leads the RMAC in shots with 20.28 per game.
“We get up to play Metro,” CMU coach Erin Sharpe said. “We’ve definitely got some confidence going into it, but you have to respect how good they are and realize they’ll be gunning for us. They’ll be very hungry to beat us.
“They’re very attack-minded. We match up well with them, but we have to be smart and organized.”
Mesa will have All-RMAC defender Sam Burneo back. She has missed the past three games with a concussion. Midfielder Tayler Franklin could return for the semifinals Friday.