Soccer fans who wish to see some top men’s teams from outside of the New England region are in luck this weekend.
Yale will play host to the fourth annual Yale-Fila classic, which will feature out-of-towners Tulsa (3-2) and No. 8 University Alabama-Birmingham (3-0) and Brown (1-1, 0-0 Ivy). The Bulldogs will begin by facing Tulsa tonight at 7:00 p.m. in the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium, following the Brown-UAB opener at 5 p.m. On Sunday, Brown will face Tulsa at 11 a.m., followed by Yale-UAB at 1:30 p.m.
While it will be entertaining for fans and players to see unfamiliar teams, the matchups will also prove important at the end of the season during NCAA tournament selection time.
“The way that the NCAA tournament selection is structured, one of the criteria they use is your strength of schedule and performance against good teams from outside your region,” Yale head coach Brian Tomkins said. “We have two good teams from outside of New England this weekend.”
Other coaches echo Tompkins’ thoughts.
“The reason we chose to play at this tournament was we felt it would give us good experience against two NCAA Tournament caliber teams,” UAB coach Mike Getman, former coach of the Harvard Cantabs, said of his upcoming games with the Bulldogs and the Bears. “We are looking forward to playing two of the best teams in the country.”
Brown coach Michael Noonan had similar thoughts.
“UAB and Tulsa are both formidable opponents and will be good tests for our team,” he said.
Although Yale will not play Ivy League rival Brown this weekend, coach Mike Noonan looks forward to the upcoming contest, which will take place at Yale Nov. 3.
“Since Coach Tompkins has arrived he has recruited top class talent and kids, which makes it a great game to look forward to,” Noonan said.
This talent has paid off in Yale’s early season. Despite injuries to veterans Stuart Yingst ’03 — who continues to play with an injured knee — and Jay Alberts ’03 — who remains out with mononucleosis — young players have stepped up to fill the void.
Freshmen Andrew Dealy, who scored in the URI game on Monday, and Lindsey Williams, who was last week’s Ivy League Rookie of the Week after his two-goal performance against Harvard, will be crucial pieces of this weekend’s Classic.
All four teams have started out the season solidly. Brown is 1-1 after a season-opening loss to Fairfield and a victory over Hofstra. The team is led by senior captain Adam Buchanan and senior Adrian Rapp, who combined for three goals in the Hofstra victory. The Bears were ranked No. 22 earlier in the season, after winning last year’s Ivy League title en route to a quarterfinals berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Tulsa, who went 0-2 before winning its last three games, was most recently victorious against Oral Roberts in a 2-0 shutout. Meanwhile, junior Mario Gonzalez and sophomore Stephen Warwick have combined for five goals and two assists this year.
“They’re a good offensive team, very athletic, and difficult to score against,” Tompkins said. “My inclination is that they’re really going to come and attack us. We’re going to need to play intelligent defense against them and create offense through that. They’re a team I think can beat anybody in the country on their day.”
UAB enters this weekend with both an unblemished record and goals-against-average. In three games, goalie Clint Baumstark has shut out all of his opponents, and the Blazers are coming to the Yale-Fila Classic after winning their own UAB-Nike Classic. All-American Flavio Monteiro has scored in 16 of 18 career collegiate games, and is a constant threat.
Ranked No. 8, the Blazers have a host of foreign talent that gives them extreme depth. “The players give them a different dimension than a lot of college teams and I think they brign a level of maturity and experience that really makes them difficult to beat,” said Tomkins.
“Fortunately, we get to play them second so we’ll get a chance to look at them on Friday and formulate a plan.”
The Bulldogs have the talent to match up with these teams, and will need to employ a similar tactic to the one they used against URI, another potent attacking team.
“We hope to bring the same effort and commitment defensively, and offensively try to find a balance between possessing the ball and controlling the tempo of the game and creating danger for our opponent,” captain Brian Lavin ’05 said.
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