Final Third On The MAAC Pitch: Dreams Of Winning While At Disney

This is a column that takes a look at all of the MAAC men’s soccer teams throughout the course of the season and off-season.

In a year when we could safely assume who the MAAC regular season title champions were going to be — Monmouth University(1) — by the end of September, which is about a quarter of the way through. The conference was still unsurprisingly, to at least one coach: Iona College head soccer coach Fernando Barboto, competitive.

At the start of non-conference play, he said “last year the conference had a really good year” and predicted “the league is going to be even stronger this year.” He was half-right. Six teams had winning records, both last season and the one we just had. So the MAAC had another “really good year” but it wasn’t “even stronger.” The last time the conference had less than five teams with winning records was in ’12 when there was four. It has had consistent competitiveness since.

Eric Klenofsky, Monmouth goalie and MAAC goalkeeper of the year, told “The Quadrangle” the following at the quarter mark of the season:

“Pretty much every game is a dog-fight, doesn’t matter who you are– whether we’re playing Quinnipiac, who won their first game [Oct. 14], or Marist, who’s right on our tail. Once you get in conference it’s just an absolute fight, it’s a battle. Every single game. And we’ve seen that when we went to Fairfield on [Oct. 17]. I thought we deserved three points, but that being said their goalie Matt Turner had an amazing day, and Fairfield was just not going to give into us that easily. They scrapped, battled and got the result. That’s what it’s like in every single MAAC game.”

The Road To Disney

Come tournament time this season, not only those teams that earned their spot in the playoffs, based on record, qualified but also the ones that didn’t. Every team knew they’d be headed to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — Disney — where they all had a chance at winning the MAAC championship. This format isn’t new to the conference, it repeats itself once every four years.

The best case scenario in building toward winning it all in these off years is to seed in the top five in order to earn a first-round bye because the bottom six teams are faced with the extremely arduous task of needing to win-out in four games in five days. Albeit, the best teams save themselves of just one game (i.e. three games in four days).