MACON, Ga. - When the 2014 FGCU Men's Soccer schedule was released, it was clear that Head Coach Bob Butehorn wanted to test his team early and often to be prepared for any situation later on in the season. His squad responded by traveling to Nashville, Tenn. to bring home another Atlantic Sun Men's Soccer Championship.
Overall, the Eagles faced seven teams ranked in the top-100 RPI. While they won one match and tied another, all other matches were decided by one-goal. Coach Butehorn talked about how mentally stronger his team was because of competing against the toughest competition.
"It puts you in a situation where you have to play at your highest level all the time. Playing with a higher level of competition, you tend to focus on every minute."
Early in the season, FGCU traveled out west to take on San Francisco and Saint Mary's. It provided an early test and learning experience. Heading out there, the Eagles ranked No. 24 in the country, but fell in both matches 1-0.
Defense became the building block all season long as Nathan Ingham started every match in goal and provided the stability needed for a championship squad. He was one of four A-Sun First-Team All-Conference performers as he led the league in goals against average at 0.69 and save percentage at .818.
Coach Butehorn also had to find ways to get his offense going, as scoring goals became difficult against the tough non-conference slate. But the hard work paid off in conference play, where the Eagles ranked second with 11 goals scored. Felipe DeSousa and Henry Penagos carried the offense with nine goals combined.
All the hard work culminated in the A-Sun Championship Final as the Eagles faced a North Florida team that eliminated them a year ago. FGCU won its third championship final by the same scoreline of 1-0 to earn the extra match in the NCAA Tournament.
"I think we were very motivated since one year ago they knocked us out," mentioned Rodrigo Saravia. "We fought hard all year, It feels so nice to celebrate the win, but also give our seniors this opportunity to play at least one more match in the NCAA Tournament."
On Monday the Eagles will find out who they will play in the NCAA Tournament opening round. Their non-conference season has prepared them to face anybody in the country.