Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team’s playoff hopes are now uncertain.
Following an improbable 3-2 loss to Winthrop in the Big South Championship game Sunday, the eighth-ranked Chanticleers may be at risk of not being selected to play in the NCAA Division-I Men’s soccer tournament.
“We don’t even know if we’re in the tournament yet,” CCU coach Shaun Docking said. “This loss put us in jeopardy, so I have no idea. It’s 50-50 at this point.
“Basically, we have to get an at-large bid and I don’t know if we have enough,” he added. “The RPI is what really counts and I don’t know if our RPI is enough to get an at-large bid. I think we’re right on the bubble. We’ve left it in the committee’s hands so we’ll see what happens.”
The Chanticleers, the Big South regular season champions, fall to 18-2-2 (10-0-0, Big South).
Coastal entered the game riding a 15 game winning streak, a 19 game unbeaten streak and a No. 32 ranking in the RPI. The Chants will have to wait until the NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Show Monday at 5:30 p.m., which will be streamed on NCAA.com, to determine its seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
“I think it would be great if we made it, then it’s just one game at a time,” Docking said. “Depending on the first game, we could be playing the No. 1 seed or the No. 48 seed. I have no idea at this point, it could go either way.”
The Eagles receive the Big South’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Winthrop scored two goals in the final 3:03 of play to pull ahead 3-2, and Coastal couldn’t overcome the deficit.
“We lost only our second game of the year,” Docking said. “It’s very disappointing. We were up 2-nil at halftime and then we came out very flat in the second half. They built some momentum in the second half and did a good job getting the goals to win the game.
“Winthrop kind of wanted it more than us. We have that hunger and desire and leadership to try and win these games. It’s kind of what we lacked a little bit today.”
The Chants got first-half goals from Ashton Bennett and Uchenna Uzo before going into halftime.
Then, Winthrop pulled within one of the top-seeded Chants in the 55th minute of action. Josh Mort sent a long arcing cross to the left side of the box. Magnus Thorsson met the cross with a header that beat Coastal’s Federico Bertele to the far post. The goal was only the fourth surrendered to the Big South opponent by the Chanticleer defense this season.
Patrick Barnes knotted the score with 3:03 to play and the Eagles’ Mason Lavallet sealed the comeback win with 1:10 remaining on the clock.
The Chants fired off six shots in the second half and earned three corners. Coastal finished with a 16-8 shot advantage and 9-1 edge in corners. The loss was the first for the Chanticleers since falling in the second game of the season at then third-ranked Charlotte 1-0 in overtime on Aug. 27.
“I think overall it’s been a good year,” Docking said. “We got 18 wins and I think we’ve proved to be a better team than we were last year overall. It would be a shame to have the season cut short at this point. But, I think we have too much to make up with the RPI so we very well could have played our last game.”
Contact MAX MCKINNON at 444-1767.