Mavs soccer left out of NCAA tournament field
Colorado Mesa knew it needed to win the RMAC men’s soccer tournament title to have a chance of getting its first NCAA Division II Tournament bid.
The Mavericks (13-5-3) made an unforgettable run, winning one match in a shootout and rallying to defeat the Colorado School of Mines and Regis this past week, but it wasn’t enough.
Regis (13-3-1) and Mines (11-6-1), which were ranked one and two in the region going into last week’s RMAC tournament, received the national berths. They are joined by Midwestern State (Texas) University (11-3-2) in the South Central Region of the NCAA tournament.
“I thought, especially beating Mines twice and beating Regis on Sunday, I legitimately thought we had a great chance of getting into the tourney,” senior captain Mike Bagheri said. “We had a great year overall, and nobody can take that away from us. We’re all disappointed we didn’t make it to the NCAA tourney. That’s what we wanted, but at the end of the day we won our first conference championship.”
Regis received the No. 1 seed in the region and will have a first-round bye. Midwestern State is the No. 2 seed and will host Colorado School of Mines in the first round.
“This will be a tough pill to swallow with Mines going in ahead of us,” CMU coach Josh Pittman said. “I felt if Mines was in, we should get in. I would’ve been OK with two Texas schools getting in ahead of us, but I don’t feel comfortable with Mines getting in ahead of us.”
The Mavericks were 2-1 against Mines this season and 1-1-1 against Regis, but they were 2-2 in nonconference region games.
“The strength of schedule is so tough,” Pittman said. “You set up the schedule at the beginning of the year to play strong teams and help that. Sometimes it doesn’t work.”
Mesa played Cal State-Stanislaus, which reached the NCAA round of 16 last year, Northwest Nazarene, which placed second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference last year, and Fort Hays State (Kan.) University, which traditionally is nationally ranked.
Stanislaus and Northwest Nazarene finished with losing records. Fort Hays (12-4-3) did qualify for the NCAA tournament and beat the Mavericks early this season. Mesa beat South Dakota Mines (0-16-1) in its other nonconference game.
“At the end of the day, you worry about yourself,” Pittman said. “Next year, I think we’ll realize the importance of those games, and hopefully we’ll be that much better and not worry about a result here or there.”
Despite the disappointment of not getting a berth in the NCAA tournament, Pittman and the Mavericks were excited about this year’s accomplishments.
“The scene yesterday was one of the most rewarding I’ve had as a coach,” he said. “It was a storybook ending.”
Pittman said he has received 60-plus text messages from former players since Sunday’s 2-1 win over Regis in the RMAC Tournament championship game in Denver.
“It was a great year,” Pittman said. “We played very well. We’re very excited about what we accomplished this year. The boys played great all season long. I’m proud of what they did. Hopefully we can get back there next year and win it again.”
The Mavericks, who won eight of their final nine games, set team single-season records for wins (13), goals scored (37), goals against (17), assists (30), shots on goal (144) and shots (286).
Mesa allowed three fewer goals than last season, yet played two more games this season. The Mavericks also had the lowest foul total in the RMAC this season.
Thirteen players who played at least 10 games this season are salted to return.
“I think it sets a high standard for the future of this program,” junior Tim Hofer said. “I’ve been here through it all as a freshman. Hopefully, my senior year we can get into the NCAA tournament and go from there.
“We need to work hard in the spring, stay in shape throughout the summer and come back with that fire in the fall and win those important regional games we didn’t this year.”