INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA has released its first regional rankings of the 2018 season, and the Florida Southern men's soccer team is No. 5 in the South. The rankings are used in the selection process for the NCAA Tournament in November, with four teams allocated to the South Region. The champions of the Sunshine State Conference and Gulf South Conference, as determined by their respective conference tournaments, each receive automatic bids, with the remaining two spots filled by at-large teams determined by regional ranking.
All six of the teams ranked in this week's South Region poll are from the Sunshine State Conference, though at least one team from the Gulf South Conference is guaranteed a spot in the regional tournament. If no team from the GSC is ranked in the top four positions at the end of the season, then the GSC Tournament champion would bump one of the top four out as a selection for the South Region Tournament.
In their second year under head coach Jason Carlson, Florida Southern is making its first appearance in the NCAA regional rankings since 2010 when they were as high as No. 3, but fell just short of qualifying at the end. The Moccasins are 11-2 this year, which includes a 9-2 record against regional competition, and a 5-2 mark in SSC play. (All conference games count as regional games.) The 11 wins are the most for Florida Southern since going 12-5 in back-to-back seasons in 2000 and 2001, with the school record of 13 wins now within sight. Nine of their 11 wins have come by shutout, making Florida Southern one of the top defensive teams in the country with a 0.77 goals against average with just 8.4 shots allowed per game.
Sitting in the top position this week is Palm Beach Atlantic with an overall record of 14-1 and a regional record of 12-1. The Sailfish have played in the last three NCAA Tournaments, reaching the national quarterfinals in 2015 before they became full members of the Sunshine State Conference. PBA's only loss this season came to Lynn on October 3 by the score of 1-0, and they already have wins over Florida Tech, Nova Southeastern, and Barry, which are two, three and four in this week's regional ranking. They have non-conference wins over two of the same teams Florida Southern has beaten, Newberry and Montevallo.
No. 2 Florida Tech is 9-2 overall and has played nothing but regional opponents this year. The Panthers' two losses have come to Palm Beach Atlantic, 3-2, and Nova Southeastern, 1-0. They also have wins over Florida Southern and Barry, as well as a 1-0 victory over Lee (TN) from the Gulf South Conference, a team that is unranked but 8-3-3 on the season.
No. 3 Nova Southeastern is 10-3 overall, and 8-3 in the region. The Sharks have wins over Florida Tech and Florida Southern, and losses to Barry and Palm Beach Atlantic by scores of 2-1 and 1-0 respectively. Their in-region, non-conference games were a 3-1 loss to Mississippi College in their season opener, a 5-1 win over Delta State, and a 5-0 win over Flagler.
No. 4 Barry is 10-3-1 overall and 8-3-1 in the region. The Buccaneers have a 2-1 win over Nova Southeastern and a 2-0 win over Lynn already in-hand but have already lost to Palm Beach Atlantic and Florida Tech. The loss to PBA was especially painful as the Bucs squandered a 2-0 lead with less than six minutes to play and lost 3-2 in overtime. Their non-conference schedule includes a 2-1 loss to Carson-Newman, which is ranked No. 5 in the Southeast Region.
After Florida Southern, and ranked No. 6, is Lynn, which is 9-3 overall and 8-3 in the region. The Knights, who were last year's national runner-up, started this season 2-2, which included a loss to Florida Southern, but has since won seven of their last eight games. The Knights also lost to Barry, but are the only team to beat Palm Beach Atlantic.
All of the teams in the poll have either two or three regular season games remaining, but Florida Southern and Lynn have the greatest opportunity to improve their positions. The Moccasins still have No. 1 Palm Beach Atlantic and No. 4 Barry on the schedule, and the Knights will play No. 2 Florida Tech and No. 3 Nova Southeastern. Any or all of the six regionally ranked teams could still play each other in the SSC Tournament, which begins on Monday, October 29.
Selections for the NCAA Tournament will be made on Monday, November 5, and the South Region Tournament begins the following weekend, with an exact day to be determined. The two winners will then meet for the South Region Championship and the NCAA Quarterfinal round the following weekend at the site of the highest remaining seed from the Southeast Region.
The national semifinals and championship game are scheduled for November 29 and December 1 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.