MACON, Ga. - The 2014 Atlantic Sun Men's Soccer season can best be described as a roller coaster ride you would see at an amusement park. With several twists and turns as the season progressed, it was only fitting that every team was alive until the final whistle of the regular season.
Preseason co-favorites Lipscomb and FGCU embodied the ebb and flow of this season, as both secured a share of the regular season title on the final match day. For the Bisons, this title means taking the next step for Coach Charles Morrow and his squad. They are hosting the A-Sun Men's Soccer Championship for the first time in program history, and with a veteran squad the Bisons look to make more history at home.
For the Eagles, the final result represented a share of their fifth straight regular-season title, after leading the conference for the majority of the season. FGCU’s season showed that with one match, the entire complexion of the league changed. All teams in the tournament have recruited and developed players and the strength of the league is showing this season.
Last season’s A-Sun Championship finalist North Florida is back in the tournament and head coach Derek Marinatos talked about the parity in the league saying “"I attribute a lot of the parity to the talent that returned to the league, especially among the top four teams.”
After being the fifth-seed a year ago, the Ospreys will challenge for the title as the fourth-seed. Coach Marinatos went on to say, “A year like this shows that we, as a conference, keep getting stronger. Even some of the new coaches in the league are already making the right steps to become a real force in this league. “
One of those new head coaches is the 2014 A-Sun Coach of the Year Ernie Yarborough at Stetson. After taking over the team only weeks before the season, Yarborough guided the Hatters to their best season since 2011. Yarborough came from Big Ten powerhouse Indiana to Stetson, and he believes that the A-Sun as whole is becoming more competitive due to tough scheduling, “The parity among the teams in the Atlantic Sun conference also goes to show that the challenging pre-conference schedules we are able to develop are going a long way to helping us compete more favorably.”
With the regular season title decided on the final match day, Yarborough acknowledged the depth in the A-Sun, “It’s always great to see a conference where there are multiple teams in contention for the title throughout the regular season. It shows there is a depth of quality among those teams competing for the conference title.”
This year's championship welcomes a newcomer as Northern Kentucky advanced as the sixth seed to the postseason. In the first year of eligibility for conference championships, the Norse earned their way with a victory over Stetson on the second to last match day. For Norse head coach John Basalyga this means everything, “It means a lot to NKU to be able to play in the conference tournament. Through the transition, this opportunity is a big boost to our program."
The Norse gaffer added about their chances coming in as the sixth-seed into the championship, "The excitement of conference tournaments is that anything can happen and whoever is hot at the right time can be the one to advance.”