Tigers Earn National Recognition, Face Big Weekend in Southern California
Sept. 5, 2007
Memphis, Tenn.-After a less than thrilling finish to the 2006 season, you might say the Memphis Tigers are on the outside looking in. You might be wrong. After their third consecutive 2-0 start to a season, the Tigers have attracted the gaze of the national soccer community.
Following the first week of NCAA competition, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), Soccer Times and College Soccer News all have released updated national rankings. In each poll, the Tigers are positioned to make some noise in those rankings. The NSCAA has Memphis in a tie for the 37th spot with UC Irvine. Both teams received six votes toward the top-25. The Soccer Times poll puts the Tigers six spots out of the top-25, tied with Michigan (each receiving 17 votes). In the College Soccer News top-30 poll, Memphis holds the No. 28 spot behind 2007 opponents South Carolina, Creighton and SMU.
In his weekly radio appearance on WHBQ's Soccer Fix with Peter Edmiston this morning, Coach Richie Grant previewed the Tigers' trip this weekend to California to face Fullerton and Northridge. Both teams have opened the 2007 season with convincing wins and are expected to have NCAA Tournament-quality seasons.
Expecting to meet a heightened level of competition on the West Coast, Grant put the key to success in the hands of his defense. Senior captain Jared Britcher agreed. A guest on the show, Britcher was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week as a defender. His performance in the Diadora Tournament last weekend earned him the tournament MVP. Britcher normally is a forward, but spent most of the weekend as part of the back four, contributing to the Tigers' shutout of Louisville. In the 2-1 win over Evansville, Grant experimented by moving several players around the pitch, and during his few minutes up top, Britcher netted both Tiger goals.
A hot start is nothing new to this Tiger squad, who won eight of its first ten matches last season to reach a No. 15 national ranking. The young team lost six of its remaining eight traversing the tough Conference USA schedule.
"We're a lot like our team was last year," said Britcher, "but we have more experience and more confidence."
Both will be put to the test this weekend when the Tigers face California teams of whom much is expected in 2007. Northridge received votes in the NSCAA poll which put the Matadors within striking distance of the top-25, and a veteran Fullerton team added depth with two international players and two junior college transfers.
"We have to be very organized and very disciplined again," said Grant. "We'll just have to build on what we do this weekend. Our lads know it will be tough."
Memphis will face Cal State Fullerton Friday night (9:00 p.m. Central) and then Cal State Northridge on Sunday at 7:00 CST.