Big East Championship: Semifinals Set

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The semifinal field has been set for the 2011 BIG EAST men’s soccer championship, which will be held at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. for the second-straight year. In a matchup at 5 p.m. on Nov. 11, Louisville will play Connecticut. In the second match of the day, Villanova will face off against St. John’s. The final is scheduled for Nov. 13 at noon. All three games will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Louisville enters the semifinals with a 12-5-2 overall record. Louisville, making its sixth championship appearance, is the No. 4 seed in the Red Division. UofL defeated Providence at home 5-0 in the first round and Marquette, the Blue Division regular season champion, 1-0 in Milwaukee, Wis., to reach the semifinals. The Cardinals are led by Colin Rolfe, who has 20 points on seven goals. Nick DeLeon, Kenney Walker and Buck Tufty each has four goals. Goalkeeper Andre Boudreaux has recorded 10 shutouts and has a 0.67 goals-against average, which ranks 15th nationally. The Cardinals are currently ranked No. 14 in the NSCAA national rankings and No. 11 in the Soccer America poll. UofL is tied for 34th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 1.89 goals per game. The Cardinals won last year’s BIG EAST Championship title on penalty kicks against Providence. Louisville went on an NCAA Championship run, reaching the title game before falling to Akron 1-0.
Connecticut, the No. 3 seed in the Blue Division, defeated DePaul 4-0 at home and Rutgers 3-1 on the road, to reach the semifinals. Freshman goalkeeper Andre Blake is ranked second in the nation in goals-against average (0.34) and save percentage (.909). Blake has 13 shutouts in 20 games and has made 70 saves while allowing only seven goals. Offensively, the Huskies are led by Mamadou Doudou Diouf, who has amassed 22 points on a team-high 10 goals and two assists. Carlos Alvarez leads the squad with five goals; he has 15 points on the season. Stephane Diop also has 15 points, while Tony Cascio has 13 and Allando Matheson has recorded 10. The Huskies are in the BIG EAST Championship for the 27th time, with their last win coming in 2007. UConn has been ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation by both NSCAA and Soccer America. The Huskies are currently ranked No. 4/3.
UConn and Louisville will face off for the second time this season. The Huskies defeated the Cardinals, 1-0, in double overtime earlier this season with a golden goal from Stephane Diop.
Villanova comes into the BIG EAST Championship semifinals with an 8-8-4 overall record. The Wildcats, the No. 5 seed in the Red Division, defeated Notre Dame 1-0 and USF 1-0, winning both games on the road. Notre Dame was the No. 4 seed in the Blue Division and USF was the No. 1 seed in the Red Division. Villanova, making its 12th appearance in the BIG EAST Championship, is led by sophomore forward Dylan Renna, who has 12 points and a team-high six assists. Freshman forward Aaron Dennis and junior back Kyle Soroka have five goals each this season. Senior goalkeeper John Fogarty is ranked 16th in the nation in save percentage (.832). Villanova is looking for its first trip to the BIG EAST Championship title game.
No. 21/21 St. John’s is making its 24th appearance in the BIG EAST Championship; the last BIG EAST Championship title for the Red Storm came in 2009. Junior midfielder Jack Bennett leads the team with 14 points on five goals and four assists, while senior forward Walter Hines has 11 points on five goals. Senior midfielder Pablo Punyed also has 11 points and redshirt-sophomore midfielder Adrian L’Esperance has posted 10 points. Redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Rafael Diaz recorded seven shutouts this season before being sidelined with an injury. Alex Naples has played in six games this season, posting a 0.54 goals-against average and recording two shutouts. The Red Storm are tied for 25th in the nation in shutout percentage (0.45), with nine shutouts in 20 games. St. John’s enters Friday’s game with a 12-6-2 overall record.
St. John’s and Villanova met during the regular season on Oct. 19. The Wildcats captured a 3-1 win at home.
The winner of the BIG EAST Championship receives the league’s automatic bid to the 48-team NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship. The 2011 NCAA Championship marks the 53rd anniversary of the tournament. First, second and third round games, as well as the quarterfinals, are held on the campuses of participating institutions in a single-elimination format. This year’s College Cup - national semifinals and championship games - will be hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Alabama Sports Foundation. It will be held at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., on December 9 and 11. 
Last season, the BIG EAST had seven teams earned spots in the NCAA Championship, with Louisville advancing to the national final. The BIG EAST has two national titles, St. John’s in 1996 and UConn in 2000.