Kansas City, Mo. – It started with a wee-hours flight on Monday morning as the early-bird catches the national championship and with two days under its belt, Lynn University's men's soccer team is primed for its eighth NCAA Division II National Semifinals appearance. The Fighting Knights take on local squad Rockhurst on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m. ET with the winner moving on to play for the national title.
"Our guys are ready to play. We arrived here three days early [of the game] so we could acclimate ourselves to the weather and time change and the team has adjusted extremely well while having fun in the process," said head coach John Rootes, who is making his fourth national semifinals appearance with the Blue and White.
Lynn battles Rockhurst, the No. 2 seed out of the Midwest, in a match of two heavyweights. The Hawks (16-2-2) return to the national semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years but have not been able to advance to the national title game. Conversely, this is Lynn's fourth semifinals appearance since 2011, with Lynn winning national titles in 2014 and 2012 and finishing as the national runner-up in 2011.
The 12th-ranked Hawks are led by a pair of 20+ point offensive players in seniors Kaleb Jackson and Adam Michel. Jackson, who leads the team with 13 goals on the year, netted the overtime game-winner against Northeastern (OK) State in the Super Region 2 championship game. Michel has logged eight goals, six of which have been game-winners. Additionally, Rockhurst is holding teams to 0.55 goals per game with 11 shutouts.
"Rockhurst is a tremendous team with a long history of success," added Rootes. "Their defense is well-balanced and their two attacking players can change the game with their speed."
While Lynn does not boast the top-heaviness in scoring, the Fighting Knights are a balanced offensive attack led by Alun Webb's nine goals. The team does have 10 regular contributors with at least one goal. Lynn's strength lies in its defense, which is allowing only 0.51 goals per game on 2.8 shots on frame with 12 clean sheets. Anchored by All-American Niklas Tasky and First Team All-Sunshine State Conference goalkeeper Alexander Roth, the Blue and White are on a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1) with four shutouts.
These two teams have met only twice previously, both of which came in the NAIA postseason in the early 90s. The last meeting came in 1994 as the Blue and White knocked off the Hawks 3-2 to advance to the NAIA national semifinals. The first meeting was in 1990 with then College of Boca Raton emerging victorious to head to the national title match.
Adding further intrigue to the matchup is that Rockhurst head coach Tony Tocco and Lynn's John Rootes are two of the top-seven winningest coaches by percentage in Division II history while Tocco recently became the all-time intercollegiate men's soccer leader in victories with 696.