Ethan Hackenberg ILB

CCU forward Ethan Hackenberg cruises past a Liberty defender in Coastal's 2-1 loss to their former Big South rival on Saturday. Coastal will found out their opponent for the 2020 NCAA Tournament Monday at noon. Photo by Ian Livingston Brooking.

Following a disappointing end to the spring season, the Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team now set their sights on the NCAA tournament.

In their final two games, the Chanticleers fell into overtime on the road to College of Charleston on Apr. 11 and suffered a 2-1 loss to former Big South rival Liberty on Saturday.

Despite these losses, head Coach Shaun Docking praised his team’s efforts as they look ahead to the tournament.

“I thought we played well tonight, to be fair,” Docking said following Saturday night’s loss. “We had large portions of possession and created some great chances. Obviously when you go down two nothing on two preventable goals, it puts you in a hole. We’d rather learn that lesson now than in the tournament.”

The Chanticleers were already in the NCAA tournament after winning the Sun Belt tournament in November.

Getting an automatic bid through winning the conference tournament is something that Docking believes may have been inside the heads of his players.

“It’s been hard for these guys to focus in on these games when they’re already in the tournament,” Docking said. “That’s always been in the back of their mind I think, as much as they want to win these games.”

Docking added with the upcoming NCAA tournament and no more spring games to play it will help “sharpen the focus“ for the big tournament and a possible run for a national championship.

The 2020 NCAA men’s soccer tournament will look a lot different this year. Instead of the typical 48 teams, only 36 will make the tournament. The entire tournament will be played in North Carolina, with the 2020 College Cup being played in Cary, North Carolina, at WakeMed Soccer Park. In years past, campus sites were the typical host. While the Chants have hosted before, it’s when the team advanced to the second round or even the quarterfinals when Coastal has made journeys well past the Mississippi River. Instead of trips to Southern Methodist and Stanford, it’ll be a short three-hour drive north. 

“It’s going to be better to just base the classes and the mental drain,” freshman forward Ethan Hackenberg said. “If we went out to Stanford, we would have to prepare for a time change.”

Coastal find out if they get a first round bye or will be playing in the first round on Monday at noon, when the NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Show happens. The defending Sun Belt Champions are currently 9-4-2 with quality wins over Georgia State and #9 UNC-Wilmington. And while Coastal held their own against a top team like Virginia Tech, Docking believes the Chants will be playing in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, Apr. 29. 

“The results haven’t gone our way,” Docking said. 

While Coastal has put together a strong record and can certainly make waves in the tournament, two critical games in UNC-Charlotte and West Virginia that could’ve helped their case for first round bye were canceled earlier this year. 

“They’re both teams that could be in the NCAA Tournament as well,” Docking said. “They’re great games. You could’ve easily picked up two wins against those guys. It would’ve definitely helped your cause.”

Regardless of where the team is playing and in what round, the Chants believe they have what it takes to make a deep run.

“I think we’ve shown great character and we have a bunch of great guys on this team that can compete,” Hackenberg said. “When we work together and play our game, I don’t think there’s many teams in the country than can beat us. I am hoping for a first round bye but if we have to play the first round, we’ll just have to take care of business.”

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