BELLEVUE, Neb. -- Final preparations are being completed as the Bellevue University men's soccer team is set to host Marymount California University in an NAIA National Tournament Opening Round Match on Saturday.
The Bruins and Mariners will kick off at 5 p.m. from Caniglia Field on the campus of the University of Nebraska Omaha.
While early concerns about the playability of the pitch have been put to rest, both teams will have to show their mental resolve with cold temperatures forecasted for kick-off.
The athletic department at Bellevue has announced that admission will be FREE for all spectators and a strong show of support is expected.
BU turned in a record-setting regular-season with a 19-match unbeaten streak, 11-game win streak, undefeated regular-season (16-0-2), and a +50 goal differential.
The Bruins advanced to the A.I.I. Championship Game before falling to Georgia Gwinnett in a 2-1 nail-biter on the Grizzlies home field.
Bellevue is led by Inaki Aldao's 12 goals while three others – Toby Millward, Renato Silva, and Travis Hurd – have each scored nine goals on the season. In total, 16 different Bruins have found their way into the scoring column, a single-season school record.
The defense has been anchored by a sturdy back line of Jacob Pease, Finlay Bloodworth, and Andy Wilkinson along with holding midfielder Emil Gebelhoff. That quartet, along with goalkeeper AJ Jarvis, have led the Bruins to nine clean sheets, a 0.73 goals allowed per 90 minutes, and just 4.1 shots on frame per contest.
Marymount, a semifinalist in the 2017 National Tournament, turned in a 13-4-3 regular-season (9-1-1 Cal Pac) before going on to claim the California Pacific Conference Tournament Championship with a thorough 4-0 victory over Embry-Riddle in the title game. The Mariners have won 11-straight headed into their match-up with the Bruins.
The Mariners return seven players that appeared in that semifinal a year ago, four starters and three reserves. Ramon Garcia, Tekodah Lobsiger, Nedin Zukanovic, and Tim Schemmer all started while Josip Mijic, Barak Moshe and Moustapha Gueye (who's redshirting this season) came in off the bench.
Zukanovic leads the Marymount attack with 20 of the team's 65 goals. Joshua Bynoe and Mijic have nine and seven goals, respectively, while the remainder of the scoring is spread out among 12 other goal scorers.
Primary goalkeeping duties have gone to Garcia who sports a 9-4-3 record with five shutouts and 56 saves. He's posted a 1.41 goals against average in 1466:04 of game time.
For those unable to attend the match in person, a video feed will be available via Stretch Internet.