Men’s and women’s soccer both chasing playoff seeding

As MSU Denver men’s and women’s soccer teams head into the final weeks of the regular season, both teams have their eyes fixed on taking a conference title back to Denver.

MSU Denver forward, Teo Jukic, chases after the ball against the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs on Oct. 13. Jukic recorded an assist on the first goal of the game. Photos by Giacomo DiFranco |gdifranc@msudenver.edu

The MSU Denver men’s team began the season by losing their first five games as they devolved into a what seemed like a lost season quickly. But the Roadrunners’ confidence never wavered as they went on to win six of their following eight games, which catapulted them up the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings. The Roadrunners knew that if they stuck to the plan and trusted their strengths they would be back on top when the dust settled.

“A big thing for us was trusting the process,” said MSU Denver defenseman Luan Silva on how his team was able to adjust to a rocky start.

The men’s team has recovered, as they currently hold a 7-7 record entering the final four games of the season, which include pivotal series against struggling Westminster College and RMAC two-seed Colorado Mesa University.

MSU Denver currently ranks third in the RMAC and could rise even higher in the standings if they take care of business and rise to the occasion in the home stretch of the regular season. But the MSU Denver squad knows that’s no easy task.

Goalkeeper Breanna Flores and defender Makenna Brassard pump each other up before the game against Western Washington University at Regency Athletic Complex.

Only one point behind Mesa in the standings, the potential six on the line have profound implications on seeding for the Roadrunners. Currently, first-place Colorado School of Mines leads MSU Denver by six points, with five-seed UCCS four points behind.

“Every team in the RMAC is tough,” Silva said. “It doesn’t matter if the team we’re playing has a losing record or winning record, we gotta show up and play.”

MSU Denver knows that if they do just that they’ll put themselves in great position to make a run for an RMAC championship.

“When we team defend we’re pretty much unstoppable,” Silva said.

However, nobody’s worrying about the playoffs just yet. Head coach Jeremy Tittle knows they must keep their focus on winning one game at a time.

“We just keep chasing the next game that we have in front of us. That’s all we can do,” Tittle said.

The Roadrunners have relied heavily on the dominant play from forward Nils Runnberg. Runnberg, who’s first in the RMAC in game-winning-goals, leading his team in scoring with six goals in 13 games. Tittle had nothing but high acclaim for his young star.

“He’s a focal point of the attack,” Tittle said. “I’m not surprised he keeps showing up on the scoreboard. I’m surprised when he’s not.”

The Roadrunners’ main goal is to stay consistent and trust each other as they make their last stand approaching the postseason.

“When we’re not consistent we wind up just not playing well,” said MSU Denver midfielder Justin Glivar. “Staying consistent, team effort and all around team defending will be great for us and I think that’ll set us apart and really get us going for the RMAC tournament and possibly the NCAA tournament.”

The MSU Denver women also experienced struggles of their own at the beginning of the season. They limped to a 1-4 record to start the season and scored just two goals in their first five games. MSU Denver’s streak of bad luck continued to hurt them when they nearly took down No. 23 St. Edward’s University but failed to get any offense going as they suffered a devastating 1-0 loss in double overtime.

But just like the men, the women proved resilient. Following their 1-4 start, MSU Denver went on to win five of their next seven, including a four game winning streak that included key wins against RMAC foes Fort Lewis and New Mexico Highlands.

MSU Denver men’s soccer team celebrates a goal against the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on Oct. 13. MSU Denver scored with five minutes left in the first half to take a 1-0 lead. The Roadrunners had a home victory of 2-0 against the Mountain Lions.

MSU Denver currently ranks fourth in the RMAC with a mark of 7-6. But the road to the RMAC Tournament doesn’t get much easier. They face the red-hot UCCS Mountain Lions and the undefeated Regis Rangers, both of whom are at the top of the RMAC standings.

But the Roadrunners do not lack experience in facing adversity. This season they have taken on three nationally ranked opponents including a nail-biting 1-0 loss to No. 1 Western Washington, in addition to Colorado School of Mines and St. Edwards.

The MSU Denver squad has their eyes on Oct. 31, the beginning of the RMAC tournament, as they’ll attempt to make their run in the final two weeks of the season.

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