ERIE, Pa. — Two Division II men’s soccer heavyweights will collide Saturday when Franklin Pierce University squares off against Charleston (West Virginia) with a berth in the Final Four on the line.
The two teams, who have never met, will play at 2 p.m. at McConnell Family Stadium on the campus of Gannon University. The host team was knocked out of the tournament by Charleston Thursday, 3-0, while FPU beat Post University 2-1 on a dramatic last-minute penalty kick by graduate midfielder Javier García Borrás in the second overtime.
The Ravens (15-3-3) are ranked 18th nationally and seeded fourth in Super Region 1. Charleston is the nation’s 10th-ranked team in Division II. Though this will be the first-ever meeting between the squads, FPU won the national championship in 2007 and Charleston did it in 2017.
This will be FPU’s first appearance in the Elite Eight since 2011, when it downed Southern New Hampshire University 1-0 on Sodexo Field, its home pitch, to capture the regional championship. Overall, it’s FPU’s 20th appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Charleston is seeded third in the Super 1 Region, and has been knocking on the door for numerous national titles. While the Golden Eagles won it two years ago, they were runners-up in 2014 and 2016. They reached the semifinals in 2015 and 1999.
The Ravens are anchored by one of the most dominant defensive units in the nation, led by Carlos Ferrando, the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association All-East Region First Team and Northeast-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year. They have 10 shutout victories this season and have allowed only 13 goals (0.63 per game), good for sixth in the nation out of 212 programs.
On offense, the Ravens are paced by García Borrás, an All-NE10 Second Team selection. He leads crimson and grey in assists (9), points (21), and game-winning goals (4). Junior forward Yannik Felber, a CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team member, has been on a tear over his last six games. Felber has scored six goals and tallied one assist including a two-goal and one assist effort in the 4-1 win against previously No. 2 ranked Adelphi.
The goalkeeper tandem of senior Jadel Poon-Lewis and graduate student Clay Thomas has been a key to the defense along with a suffocating back line.
The Golden Eagles (19-2-1) finished first in the Mountain East Conference under third-year Coach Dan Stratford, who was named the league’s coach of the year. Charleston has shut out both teams they have faced in the NCAA Tournament: 5-0 over Mercy and 3-0 over Gannon. They have only given up seven goals all season and have never allowed more than one goal a match.
MEC Defensive Player of the Year and All-MEC First Team athlete Jordi Ramon leads them defensively. He is the third different Charleston player in as many seasons to bring home the Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
Offensively, Ettore Ballestracci has a team-best 27 points and nine assists with nine goals. Charleston has three double-digit goal scorers in Freddy Tracey (11), Christos Charalambous (10) and Gabriel Rodriguez (10).
The winner moves on to the national semifinals, which will be played Dec. 12 in nearby Pittsburgh.