Grande Alums Roundup: 2016 NCAA Season Final Showdown

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In the past 6 years, over 130 Grande Sports Academy graduates have gone on to pursue their collegiate soccer careers at various programs of all levels across the country and 28 players have signed professional contracts. There are currently a remarkable 21 GSA alums playing at one of the Top 25 ranked NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer programs. With the 2016 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship in full swing, a number of Grande Sports Academy alums have had plenty of success in the tournament thus far and are getting ready for their quarterfinals matchups coming up this weekend. We share all the exciting details in our latest Grande Alums Roundup.

Gayton, Schmitt, and the Cardinals extend their unbeaten streak to eight

After a tough 2-1 overtime loss against Wake Forest in the ACC Championship semifinals, #4 Louisville Cardinals bounced back with two straight strong performances in their first two rounds of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championships. As it has been the case all season, Grande Sports Academy alums Tate Schmitt and Jack Gayton played a crucial role in both wins. In the second round matchup they squared up against the UCLA Bruins and their fellow Grande alum:, Jose Hernandez, Erik Holt, Chase Bishov, and Ethan Shacknai. The Cardinals took the lead in the 3rd minute after Gayton found the back of the net for his 3rd goal of the season. The Bruins were able to find an equalizer in the second half and the game was tied at one a piece after 90 min. The Cardinals must have learned from their ACC semifinals OT defeat, and it only took 4 minutes for Schmitt to break the deadlock and score a golden goal on a brilliant header from six yards out. That was Schmitt’s fourth goal of his sophomore season and certainly the most important one in his young collegiate career.

With the win against UCLA, the Cardinals advanced to the third round of the NCAA Championship to face #13 Notre Dame. Both Schmitt and Gayton were in the starting lineup again and have now both started in all of the Cardinals’ 21 games this season. For the second consecutive week, sophomore Schmitt was the man of the moment as he notched another game winning goal in the 71st minute, already his 5th goal of the season. The Cardinals clinched its fourth NCAA Championship quarterfinal berth in the last seven seasons with a final 3-1 victory. They will host #5 Stanford in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Championship for the first time since making three straight appearances (2010-12). The game is on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Lynn Stadium in Kentucky with a spot in the 2016 NCAA Men’s College Cup in Houston, TX on the line. Big day ahead for both Grande alums this weekend!

Fifth Goal of the Year for Schmitt (at 0:32)

No.1 ranked Maryland’s undefeated season ends in heartbreaking fashion

University of Maryland’s undefeated season came to a surprising end in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Championship after a heartbreaking loss against Providence. Holding a commanding 4-1 lead with only 20 minutes left in the game, no one could have foreseen what happened next, the soccer equivalent of a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock horror story. The Terps’ experienced a complete defensive meltdown and conceded four goals in just 12 minutes. Providence ended up holding the lead and advanced to the third round with a stunning 5-4 victory. Despite the tough night, Amar Sejdic, a 2014-15 Grande alum, had another great offensive performance in this season ending loss. Sejdic added two more goals to his season tally, including this wonderful volley for a 3-1 lead.

Sejdic and the other three Grande alums, Diego Silva, Miles Stray, Paul Bin as well as the rest of the Terps were stunned and heartbroken. This moment was an invaluable lesson, however, and an experience that will undoubtedly toughen their skin and help them grow. The Terps have much to be proud of as they have been nothing short of spectacular this season, stringing together an incredible 21 game unbeaten streak during which they scored 2 or more goals in 18 of the games. A big reason for their success on the field has been the play of their No.10, a skillful playmaking midfielder with Bosnian roots, Sejdic. Sejdic has had an impressive sophomore season filled with stellar performances and decisive moments. He started 19 games and finished the season with 9 goals (2nd on the team) and 9 assists (1st on the team) for a total of 27 points which ranks him second overall on the Terps roster. Silva, Stray, and Bin did not get many opportunities to play this season and will certainly come back ready to work hard in the spring and looking to improve on their playing time next season when the Terps will certainly be a major player in the NCAA Division I once again.

Freshman Knox starts for Wake Forest as they advance to the Elite Eight

Wake Forest, with our Grande alum Alex Knox, entered the ACC Championships ranked #2 team in the nation after finishing the regular season on a 6 game unbeaten streak. The expectations were set high, understandably so, and the Deacons delivered as they defeated 3 very tough ACC rivals and some of the strongest teams in the country: #20 Notre Dame (1-0), #9 Louisville (2-1 OT), and #3 Clemson. They played Clemson Tigers in the final and earned a 3-1 victory to claim the 2016 ACC Tournament championship. The ACC Championship is the second in program history and the first since 1989.
The win was a great “warm up” for their Sweet 16 matchup with Coastal Carolina in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament. Having watched most of the team’s ACC tournament action from the sidelines, freshman Knox got a golden opportunity and returned back to the starting lineup for the Deacons’ first game of the NCAA Championships. The young right back played an important role with his defensive assignments and helped the Deacons earn their 14th shutout of the season in a 2-0 win that took them to the third round. In the third round matchup against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), Knox got the starting XI nod once again and played all 90 minutes in a hard fought 2-1 win that took Wake Forest back to the Elite Eight for the second-straight season. It also marked the first time since 2008 and 2009 the Deacons are in the national quarterfinals in back-to-back seasons.
Knox, is a true Grande Sports Academy veteran and has always been one of the hardest working young players and a distinguished student on top of that. He is the youngest student athlete ever to join Grande and first one to complete all 4 years at the academy. Knox often mentions the important role that Grande Sports Academy played in his development on and off the field and we are excited to see him thriving at the next level. Next for Knox and Wake Forest is the Elite Eight showdown against Virginia Tech and a chance to advance to the 2016 NCAA Men’s College Cup in Houston, TX.

Other Grande Alums in NCAA tournament action around the country

Tanner Dieterich helped his Clemson Tigers reach the Sweet 16 for the third straight year as he assisted on a goal winning goal in a 2-1 overtime win over South Carolina with another Grande alum, Ive Burnett. Dieterich and the Tigers went on to beat #14 Albany with a final score of 3-1 in the Sweet 16 round and advanced to the Elite Eight where they will face #6 Denver. Denver eliminated #11 Washington.

Prior to their 2-1 loss against Denver in the Sweet 16 round, Washington Huskies and Grande alum Elijah Rice defeated New Mexico Lobos with four fellow Grande alums Aaron Herrera, Josh Goss, Sam Gleadle (all started) and Lucas Seligman, in a convincing fashion by a score of 4-1. Freshman Rice, a U-20 U.S. Men’s National Team player, came off the bench and scored the third goal of the game for Huskies. This was his 3rd goal of the season. Rice spent his senior year in high school at Grande Sports Academy where he quickly became an indispensable attacking threat of the U-18 academy team. Rice was the top scorer in the 2015-16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season and made news early on as he scored a remarkable 6 goals in one game against Strikers FC.

Corey Baird, a junior at #5 Stanford Cardinal, has had an impressive sophomore season and has been one of the main reasons for the Cardinal’s impressive run as the 2015 NCAA Division I Champions as they find themselves in a very familiar territory – the NCAA Elite Eight. Baird and the Cardinal have already been crowned the Pac-12 Conference Champions for the third straight time earlier in the season and continued with their fine form in the NCAA tournament as well. They recorded two straight shutouts in a 2-0 win against Pacific and a thrilling double overtime 1-0 win against #12 Virginia and two Grande alums, Bay Kurtz and Terrell Lowe. Baird, Trevor Hyman, and the rest of the Cardinal squad travel to Kentucky for only their second time in program’s history to face Louisville Cardinals with two Grande alums, Jack Gayton and Tate Schmitt, who themselves are in very fine form. With the stakes high and the 2016 NCAA Men’s College Cup berth on the line, one thing is certain, the Cardinal vs the Cardinals will be a match to watch this Saturday, December 3 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN3.

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