Grande Alums Roundup: Gearing Up For The 2016 NCAA Tournament

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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 Weeks 8-11 of the NCAA Men’s Soccer regular season completed and the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament approaching quickly, Grande Sports Academy alums continued with stellar performances on the fields around the country as their respective teams fight for playoff spots. Read all about it in our latest Grande Alums Roundup.

Baird flourishes as Stanford are crowned PAC-12 Champions

Corey Baird, a junior at #8 Stanford Cardinal, has rediscovered his top sophomore season form and has been one of the main reasons for the Cardinal’s impressive current play. Last year, Baird had an outstanding season with 3 goals and incredible 13 assists while playing a vital role together with Jordan Morris in Stanford’s championship run. Two of Corey’s assists came in the final against Clemson. He has been an irreplaceable starter this season as well and has already logged in over 1,000 minutes of playing time. After hitting the back of the net twice earlier in the season, Baird was back to setting up his teammates and added 4 new assists to his tally in their last 3 matches. He was instrumental in a 3-1 win against San Diego State as he assisted on the first two goals of the game against their Pac-12 rivals. He also assisted on the first goal on the first goal against UCLA and then again in an away game against San Diego State in a hard fought double overtime 1-1 draw. His impressive performances earned Baird his first Pac-12 Player of the Week award. Another, Grande Sports Academy graduate, Trevor Hyman, continued to log minutes for the Cardinal as he came off the bench in the first game against SDSU.

In the closing weeks of the 2016 NCAA regular season Baird has caught fire and has been one of the main reasons why Stanford Cardinal have turned their season around after a surprisingly sluggish start to their 2016 NCAA campaign, and are back to playing championship level soccer at the right time with NCAA Men’s College Cup First Round approaching fast. In the Cardinal’s last two wins, Baird stepped up again as he assisted on the winning goal in a 3-2 win against #24 UCLA and then added another goal and assist in the 3-0 win against Oregon State. Baird already has 3 goals and 6 assists on the season. The defending 2015 NCAA National Champions enter this weekend’s last game of the regular season against their Pac-12 rivals California-Berkeley having lost only once in their last 9 games. Baird and the Cardinal have already been crowned the Pac-12 Conference Champions for the third straight time as they keep a commanding 4 point lead with one game left in the regular season and heading to another NCAA Tournament.

Undefeated season continues for Grande Alums at #1 Maryland

Amar Sejdic has been absolutely on fire in his sophomore year at University of Maryland, the number one ranked team in the country. The irreplaceable No.10 has played a major role in Maryland’s incredible undefeated season. In weeks 8 & 9, Sejdic was on another level again as the Terps recorded three new wins. Against West Virginia he scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win and then only 4 days later added two more assists to his tally in 3-2 overtime win against Wisconsin that won the Terps the 2016 Big Ten Conference title with 3 games left to be played in the regular season. In the next game, Sejdic once again put his enormous talents on display when Maryland hosted American at Ludwig Field. He scored on a remarkable long distance shot and then assisted for the game winning goal in the second half. The 2-1 win extended their winning streak to an incredible nine games. Three other Grande alums and now members of the Terp family (Diego Silva, Miles Stray and Paul Bin), did not get an opportunity to play and will be looking to get on the field against Hofstra this Friday.

The final two weeks of the regular season were no different as Sejdic led the Terps to 3 new wins to continue their unbelievable season and a remarkable 18-game unbeaten streak. Sejdic scored one goal and added 2 assists during that last stretch as the Terps moved on to play in the Big Ten Tournament where they faced Michigan on Sunday and won 3-2 in a double overtime thriller. Sejdic recorded another assist. He has been stellar all season long scoring 7 goals and 10 assists.

Lowe, Kurtz and the Cavaliers defensive domination

Bay Kurtz and Terrell Lowe started in both #17 Virginia’s two new shutout wins over #4 Notre Dame and William & Mary in Week 9. Kurtz, the speedy right back, and Lowe, the fearless defensive midfielder, have played an important role in the Cavaliers’ exceptional defensive performances during their 7-game unbeaten streak during which they recorded impressive 5 shutouts. After conceding six goals in a beat down against Louisville in Week 5, they have stepped up their defensive intensity and have only conceded 2 goals in their last seven games.

In the last week of the regular season, the Cavaliers kept their foot on the gas pedal and finished both of their last two games without conceding a goal yet again (0-0 draw vs Pittsburgh; 1-0 win vs Duke). Virginia have made their rock solid defense a staple of their success this year and their first round ACC Conference Tournament match up against NC State was no different as they prevailed 1-0 in a hard fought battle to earn a spot in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
Kurtz, who joined the Cavaliers before the start of the 2016 spring season after spending his first two years at Liberty University (2 goals & 7 assists in 31 matches), started all but two games this season. Lowe has had a great start to his freshman year, having started 17 of 18 games logging 1,470 minutes and recording one assist.

Jackson continues his highly successful season for Grand Canyon University

Niki Jackson can’t stop scoring in his junior year at Grand Canyon University (GCU) and he has now scored multiple goals in a single game for the third time this season. He was on target again in the game against their conference rivals UNLV as he came to the rescue with second half heroics. GCU trailing 2-0 heading into the final 20 minutes of the match, the Lopes responded well with back-to-back goals by Jackson in a 60-second span to force a 2-2 tie. These were already the 10th and 11th goals of the season for Jackson who ranks fourth in scoring in the NCAA Division I and has a total of 23 points. Damian German started the match for GCU as well while another Grande alum, Jason Eng, started for UNLV. This is Eng’s first year with the Rebels after joining them upon his return from Hong Kong where he was a member of the Hong Kong Rangers FC squad which played in the Hong Kong Premier League. In GCU’s second game of Week 9 against Seattle both Jackson and German started the game again but weren’t as successful. German, who was the top scorer of the 2014-2015 USSDA season with 34 goals scored in 40 games at Grande Sports Academy, wasn’t able to get on the scoresheet but did record an assist on their only goal of the game in a 2-1 loss. Daniel Moreno and Patrick Ring did not play this past week and Amer Sasivarevic was out due to a knee injury.

The Lopes had mixed results in their last two weeks with 3 wins and 2 losses to end the season with a 7-9-3 overall record in WAC conference. Individually though, Grande alums did extremely well to finish the season on a high note. Jackson has been a scoring machine this season for the Lopes and continued to impress with his scoring prowess as he scored another 5 goals and added an assist in the last five games of the season. Jackson proved himself as one of the best scorer’s in the country, ending the season with 16 goals and two assists for a total of 34 points. He now has 30 goals for his first three years at Grand Canyon. German also scored two goals during this home stretch and finished his sophomore season with 4 goals and 3 assists.

Rice assists on an OT game winner for the Huskies

Elijah Rice, a U-20 U.S. Men’s National Team player, is going through the usual freshman growing pains with inconsistent playing time in his first year at #14 University of Washington, however he has already showcased his enormous talent on a couple of occasions and proven that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. After coming on as a sub and scoring the game winning goal in Week 5 vs Seattle University, Rice once again came off the bench in the Huskies’ last game against Oregon State in Week 9 and this time assisted for the game winning goal in the 102nd minute of a 2-1 overtime win.

Huskies finished their season with two hard fought 1-0 wins and two close 1-0 losses to finish in 2nd place in Pac-12 Conference and move onto the 2016 NCAA Tournament that kicks off on November 17.

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. Check out the highlights from that game here and relive his impressive feat.

Three Grande alums play vital roles as Lobos finish the regular season strong

After a tough stretch midseason and losing three straight games on the road with a score of 2-1, Aaron Herrera, Sam Gleadle, Josh Goss and the Lobos bounced back and rediscovered their form from earlier this year in time to finish the season on a winning note with three straight wins and qualify for the C-USA Men’s Soccer Championship quarterfinals. In the three wins, Grande alums all left their imprint on the games. Herrera earned his second assist of the season in Lobos’ 2-0 win over Old Dominion and Gleadle assisted on the first goal in the 2-1 win against South Carolina. This was already Gleadle’s fifth assist of the year. Another Grande alum, Ive Burnett, who plays for South Carolina assisted on the Cocks’ only goal of the game. This was his second assist of his senior year. Burnett has had a wonderful career at South Carolina where he became an irreplaceable starter and a staple of Cocks’ defense. He had earned a number of awards: 2015 Third-team All-Conference USA, 2015 CoSIDA Academic All-District 4, 2013-14-15 C-USA Academic Honor Roll, 2014-15 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll, and 2013-14 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll.

In the C-USA quarterfinals Gleadle was fantastic scoring the first of two goals and assisted on the game tying goal with only minutes left in the game that ended 2-2 after 90 minutes. The Lobos came out victorious after winning in a penalty shootout against #19 Kentucky. Herrera (miss) and Goss (score) took two of the penalties in the shootout. The Lobos will now face top-seed and #5 Charlotte in the semifinals of the C-USA Men’s Soccer Championship on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Brooks Lennon continues to impress at Liverpool FC

Lennon got another opportunity to put his tremendous talent on display as the Liverpool U-23 side faced their fierce city rivals, Everton FC. Lennon was in the starting lineup and his performance earned him praise from the Under-23 coach Michael Beale, who paid tribute to Lennon “for going the extra mile” to help clinch a 2-0 mini-derby win over their rivals. Lennon, who usually operates on the wings for the U.S. National Team, was up top as a No. 9 and played a prominent role for the Reds finding the back of the net again as he scored on a header at the beginning of the second half for the opening goal of the game. You can read a short post-game interview with Brooks where he shared his thoughts and feelings about the game.

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