The Ashland University men's soccer team heads into Tuesday's (Oct. 30) GLIAC Tournament first round game in its best form since the program was reinstated in 2016.
The Eagles (5-9-3) are unbeaten in their last five conference games and are coming off an impressive 2-2 draw to GLIAC regular season champion Saginaw Valley at Ferguson Field last Friday.
The Eagles, in their third season under head coach Oliver Slawson, enter the tournament as the No. 6 seed and will match up with No. 3-seed Purdue Northwest with kickoff set for 3 p.m. ET. The Pride (9-6-1) beat the Eagles 2-0 in Indiana on Sept. 23, and came out with a 1-0 win in double overtime in Ashland on Oct. 5.
Ashland is playing in its first GLIAC Tournament since 2012, the final season before a three-year hiatus for the program. The Eagles lost to Northwood in the opening round that season and missed the playoffs in 2011, but Ashland was the GLIAC Tournament champion in 2010, the last season the Eagles qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
The winner of the GLIAC Tournament will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA bracket.
After a troubling start to the season that saw Ashland sitting with a 2-8-1 record, including a 1-6 mark in GLIAC play, the Eagles have turned their fortunes around. They have a 3-1-2 record since then, averaging two goals per game.
Sophomore Justin Libertowski leads the Eagles in that category with nine goals on the season. He is tied for second in the GLIAC in scoring and is fourth in points with 20. Redshirt-freshman Kieran Paterson has three goals this season and junior John Duldner has two to his account.
Sophomore Yusuke Yasumasu has been the main goal distributor with four assists, but 11 players have recorded a helper on the year.
At the back, the Eagles have improved greatly. Last season, the Eagles carried a 2.38 goals against average, but that has improved to 1.45 this year. Sophomore keeper Dimitrius Karousos has steadied things on the back line with a 1.13 goals against average, which ranks third in the GLIAC. He is second in the league with 67 saves, holding a 4-4-2 record.
The Eagles (-2) have a better goal differential than the Pride (-5) in conference play this season. Purdue Northwest has a plethora of scoring options with six players with multiple goals, led by Isaiah Nieves' six goals and four assists.