With the field now set for the 2019 men’s soccer Summit League Tournament, it seems that this year could be one of the most wide-open competitions in recent memory. Every team, from seed 1 through 4, will travel to Denver with hopes of clinching the Summit League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. With the tournament fast approaching, here’s a look at each team and how they got to where they are.
No. 1 Western Illinois Leathernecks
This Western Illinois team may be one of the biggest ‘Cinderella’ stories to ever grace the Summit League tournament. Eleven games into the Leathernecks’ season, the team was a dismal 0-11-0 and was ranked 204th out 206th teams in NCAA men’s soccer RPI. But RPI didn’t mean anything to Western Illinois. Since turning their season around in a dramatic 4-3 win against the Denver Pioneers, the Leathernecks have been on fire in the Summit League, winning their final four conference games in order to top the Summit League regular season. Now, Western Illinois will try to keep their good fortune going in the next two games, as they look to win the Summit League tournament.
No. 2 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
If Western Illinois was the Cinderella story in this year’s Summit League season, then Oral Roberts was one of Cinderella’s sisters—so close were the Golden Eagles to having the glass slipper fit. After narrowly missing the Summit League tournament last season, Oral Roberts turned things around in a huge way this year. The Golden Eagles finished the regular season with a conference-best record of 13-3, the best finish in Oral Roberts history. It was the third and final loss of the regular reason that cost the team, however, as they fell 2-1 to Western Illinois to lose out on the Summit League regular season title. So, while the Golden Eagles didn’t get their fairy tale ending in the regular season, they’ll be looking for revenge in Denver.
No. 3 Denver Pioneers
With one game left to go in the Summit League regular season, the Pioneers found themselves in an unfamiliar position. Their final game in the regular season was a must-win match against Purdue Fort Wayne, as a loss to the Mastodons would have seen Denver finish outside the top four and miss the tournament, a tournament which they were hosting. As the Pioneers have been known to do, however, they took care of business with an emphatic 3-1 win and sealed their spot in the postseason. While the Pioneers may be a lower seed than they’ve been in years past, they proved this season that they’re a team that you can never count out.
No. 4 Omaha Mavericks
At the time, the Mavericks’ 3-1 win against Western Illinois didn’t seem like such a big deal. The Leathernecks were winless on the year and a win against the team seemed like a formality. Now in retrospect, that win might have been Omaha’s biggest all season. So, while the Mavericks have had their ups and downs this year in Summit League play, with defeats to Oral Roberts and Denver being some of the downs, the team did pick up big wins when they needed to this season. With Omaha being the only team to knock off the Leathernecks in Summit League play this year, they’ll have chance to make it two wins in two games as they get a rematch in the first round of the conference tournament.