After an unprecedented sixth consecutive Northeast Conference regular-season crown, Monmouth University’s men’s soccer team is hosting the NEC Tournament this weekend on the Great Lawn.
Monmouth completed NEC play with a 6-0- 4 record while runner-up Sacred Heart was 6-2-2.
The Hawks, ranked No. 11 in the latest NSCAA/HendrickCars.com National Top-25 Poll, will open play at 11 a.m. against fourthseeded Fairleigh Dickinson (during the regular season, the Hawks beat FDU, 4-0).
The 1:30 p.m. game will feature No. 2 seed Sacred Heart against No. 3 St. Francis (Pennsylvania). The winners will play Sunday at noon with an NCAA berth on the line.
MU made history last year hosting a firstroundmatch on the Great Lawn and beating the University of Connecticut for the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory.
Monmouth clinched the program’s sixth straight Northeast Conference regular-season title last weekend by beating Mount St. Mary, 3- 0, and drawing with Quinnipiac, 1-1. The Hawks ended the regular season with a 12-1-4 mark.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of young men,” said MU head coach Robert Mc- Court in a press release from the university. “They have proven all season that they are a worthy group of champions. From the players individually to the program as a whole, this is a tremendous achievement and we look forward to continuing our season.”
The Hawk players looked at the regular-season title as a first step.
“It’s a great feeling to win another title here, especially in our seniors’ final year, but it is only the first accomplishment of the many lofty goals we have set for ourselves,” said senior Hermann Trophy candidate Ryan Kinne (Naugatuck, Conn.). “We need to continue to stay focused. This is the most important time of the season and the part everyone looks forward to, and we have a few big weeks of soccer ahead of us.”
The seniors took pride in continuing the regular season streak.
“Winning the regular-season championship has become a tradition here, and I’m glad that we can keep that going,” added fellow Hermann Trophy candidate Bryan Meredith (Scotch Plains, Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School).
During this streak, the Hawks have become a nationally recognized power. They’ve been ranked in the top 20 in the country for more than 20 consecutive weeks.
Kinne leads the team in scoring heading into the postseason with 29 points on 12 goals and five assists.
Former Freehold Township standout Ryan Clarke, a midfielder, is second in scoring with three goals and five assists. He and Kinne lead the team in assists.
Erkko Puranen (Finland) is second on the team in goals scored with five.
Meredith has posted nine shutouts, and his goals-against average is 0.51.