Rio men meet Wolves in NAIA opener

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande will host Cardinal Stritch University in the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Evan E. Davis Field.

Kickoff is set for noon.

Rio Grande (14-1-2), which was ranked third in the final NAIA Coaches’ Top 25, is seeded fourth in the 32-team tournament.

The RedStorm played West Virginia University-Tech to a 1-1 draw in its last outing — a River States Conference Tournament semifinal contest on Nov. 9 — with the Golden Bears advancing to the title game by virtue of an 8-7 win in a penalty kick shootout.

Cardinal Stritch (15-3-2), a member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference located in Milwaukee, Wis., grabbed an automatic berth to the national tourney by defeating Roosevelt (Ill.) University, 2-1, in overtime in the CCAC’s tournament championship.

The Wolves are making just their third all-time appearance in the national tournament and are 0-1-1 in their previous trips — the most recent of which came in 2013 and resulted in a 3-2 loss at now-defunct Ashford University.

Rio Grande, the only team in NAIA postseason history to serve as Opening Round host all nine years since the format began in 2008, is making its 17th consecutive tournament appearance. The RedStorm is a perfect 9-0-0 in the Opening Round and 31-12-3 altogether, winning national championships in 2003 and 2015 in the process.

Head coach Scott Morrissey’s club is led by junior Eduardo Zurita (Sant Boi de Llobregat, Spain) — the RSC’s Offensive Player of the Year and Overall Player of the Year — along with the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in senior Jorge Guinovart (Barcelona, Spain).

Zurita has a team-high 13 goals to go along with four assists for a team-best 30 points. Two other Rio players — sophomore Deri Corfe (Chester, England) and junior Spencer Reinford (McAlisterville, PA) — have eclipsed the 20-point mark on the season with 26 and 24 points, respectively. Reinford is second on the club with 10 goals.

Cardinal Stritch is led by junior midfielders Teren Schuster and Liam Heywood, who have 25 and 22 points, respectively. Heywood, the CCAC Player of the Year, leads the team with 10 goals.

The Wolves also have a 20-point scorer in junior midfielder Jack Hart (8 goals, 4 assists).

Rio Grande has won each of its previous two meetings with the Wolves — 4-0 in 2014 and 2-1 last season.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.