March Madness is months away, but New York already has an NCAA Tournament Cinderella on the pitch instead of the hardwood.
Fordham has reached the Elite Eight of the men’s soccer tournament for the first time in school history. Next for the Rams is a Saturday visit to Chapel Hill against third-seeded North Carolina, which has advanced this far in the bracket for the eighth time in 10 years. The winner advances to the College Cup semifinals in Chester, Pennsylvania.
“It’s a little bit of David and Goliath,” Fordham head coach Jim McElderry told amNewYork. “But, I think at this point, you kind of embrace that a little bit. Our players, I feel, can stand up to any players in the country.”
Along the way, Fordham overcame a pair of one-goal deficits against St. Francis Brooklyn in the Bronx, scoring late to break a scoreless tie against No. 11 Virginia and outlasting No. 6 Duke in penalty kicks. The Rams are the lone unseeded team remaining from the field of 48.
“We’ve had success just really sticking to the task and not getting ahead of ourselves,” McElderry said. “The belief we have in a lot of our players is that, if you just keep at it, we’re good enough to win games.”
To decide Saturday’s victory over the Blue Devils, the penalty kicks went 10 rounds and found the unlikeliest of heroes. Jordan Black, senior reserve goaltender booted the winning kick, having not seen a minute of action all season.
“A lot of people feel comfortable with it in practice, but doing it in a game, in a pressure situation is totally different,” said McElderry, in his 14th year at Fordham. “I had no hesitation in putting Jordan in there. I couldn’t have been happier for him when he scored.”
The Tar Heels finished their campaign second in the ACC, widely considered the strongest conference in men’s soccer. Three of their players earned first-team all-conference honors. Having already dispatched two ACC schools, Fordham has just one response to all of UNC’s pedigree: “Why not us?”
“We know it’s going to be a tall task. We know they have incredibly talented players. We know it’s going to be a difficult game for us,” McElderry said. “But, we are embracing that now. Let’s go down there and see if we can shock the college world.”