The field of 48 for the 2014 NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament has been unveiled, and the matches kick-off beginning tomorrow with 16 first-round encounters. This year, the Crew Soccer Academy is represented with 24 players competing for the championship, spread across nine teams.
Here's a look at the bracket for the tournament. Five of the nine teams with CSA representation are slated to play tomorrow, including what Columbus locals might consider a marquee meeting between Ohio State and Akron.
Courtesy of Crew SC Sr. Vice President Soccer Business Development and Executive Director of Crew Juniors Andrew Arthurs, here's your guide of who to watch for throughout the tournament.
Akron has one CSA alum on its roster: defender Andrew Souders. Souders started 19 matches this season, contributing one goal and one assist.
"In terms of high-profile, Andrew was in residency for a year," said Arthurs. "He was a captain of the U-17s, so he has a pretty significant Youth National Team pedigree. He started all four years there. That in and of itself means you're a pretty good player. He's a high-profile kid that we love and he's been a part of our 19s and 20s in the summertime as well."
The Hoyas also boast one CSA alum: midfielder David Witkoff, who made 11 appearances this season and 17 throughout his three-year career with Georgetown.
"David is a really technical attacking player," said Arthurs. "He was a teammate of Wil Trapp's at Gahanna and a part of the state title team. He's a good player."
Kentucky is one of four schools in the tournament with at least four CSA alums on its roster, as defender Alex Bumpus, forward/midfielder Noah Hutchins, forward Andrew McKelvey and defender Charlie Reymann are all products of Crew SC's youth setup.
Of the four, Reymann saw the most time this season, recording five assists over 18 appearances. McKelvey made 17 appearances, mostly as a substitute. In his freshman season, Hutchins made one substitute appearance. Bumpus missed the year after suffering an ACL tear.
"At the time, Kentucky's assistant was Eric Imler, who is a former UVA player and a former National Team player. Eric loved our guys and loved our system," said Arthurs, on how four CSA alums made their way to Lexington to play college soccer. "He was always visible at training, matches, home and away. Alex and Charlie, they're in their second years, they're sophomores. Andrew and Noah are freshman. [Reymann] starts every game as their leftback. 'Bump' would be starting, but he's coming off of an ACL injury. He's very good. The other two are attacking players. They have good upside there."
Maryland has just one CSA alum on its team, but it's a player who's hard to miss: big 6'5" centerback Alex Crognale (pictured above). He made 19 appearances and 15 starts in his sophomore season this year, scoring one goal and adding two assists.
"Maryland won the Big Ten, won the conference tournament, they're the fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament," said Arthurs. "Crognale is their starting centerback, he's 6'5" and was also a part of the Gahanna state title team with Wil Trapp. He has really good feet. Physically, he has the tools."
The Spartans have two CSA alums on their roster, both from the CSA Wolves academy in Michigan: defender Jimmy Fiscus and midfielder Ken Krolicki. Krolicki made 20 appearances this season, scoring two goals and contributing two assists. Fiscus made 13 appearances as a freshman.
"Jimmy is a centerback – at least that's where he played with the Wolves," said Arthurs. "Good, solid, steady defender. Technical as well. He was their steadiest guy and a three-time captain at CSA Wolves."
Notre Dame enters the tournament as the defending National Champions and as the tournament's top seed. With four CSA alums on their roster, they are well-represented with the Black & Gold. Midfielder Connor Klekota, defender/midfielder Blake Townes, defender Matt Habrowski and midfielder Oliver Harris will be looking to help Notre Dame repeat this season.
Of the four, Klekota received the most playing time, scoring one goal and adding four assists in his junior season. He is an Amherst, Ohio native and a product of the Columbus-based CSA Academy. Townes, Habrowski and Harris are CSA Wolves alumni.
"Blake plays a little bit like Wil Trapp. I like Oliver as well," said Arthurs. "The player to watch from Notre Dame is Connor. He was a starter on last year's team, he was one of their better players last year, and he's one of our guys. He's certainly one to feature there."
The Buckeyes are tied with Xavier for the largest group of CSA representation, with five alums on their roster: defender/midfielder Kyle Culbertson, defender Tyler Kidwell, midfielder Zach Mason, midfielder Alex Ranalli and defender Hunter Robertson.
Culbertson contributed three goals and three assists in 19 appearances. Robertson, Mason and Kidwell started all 20 matches for Ohio State as well. Ranalli made four appearances throughout the campaign.
"Hunter Robertson was just named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team," said Arthurs. "[Kidwell] has started for two years, while Zach has started every match in three years as their captain. Kyle Culbertson has transferred a few times, but he's in the center midfield with Zach. Those are four good players for us."
The Demon Deacons, Michael Parkhurst's former school, have one alum: midfielder John Schuman. A freshman, he made seven appearances in 2014.
"Schuman is super dynamic, an athletic player with a great engine," said Arthurs. "He's probably either out wide in the midfield or up top."
The Muskeeters boast the final five CSA alumni: goalkeeper Eric Osswald, defender Matt Hill, midfielder Will Walker, midfielder Rhodes Moore and goalkeeper Matt Appel.
Osswald is the starting goalkeeper for Xavier, with Appel slotting in as a backup. Osswald started 18 of the 20 regular season matches for the Musketeers, recording a 0.65 goals-against average en route to being named the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year. Will Walker, the twin brother of former Crew SC Homegrown Player Matt Walker, registered five goals and nine assists in 20 matches. Hill and Moore each also started all 20 matches for Xavier.
"Xavier's good. They've had a kind of under-the-radar season a little bit, but the last three or four years they've put some good teams and good players out," said Arthurs. "For us, we had a relationship with their prior coach, and then Andy Fleming came from Northwestern and is in his fifth year there. He's done a good job. That's a good team for sure. Osswald, Matt Hill, Will Walker and Rhodes Moore, when he's healthy – they're all starters."