Towson State has tied the school record for most victories in a season and spent seven consecutive weeks in the national rankings. But it isn't enough to get the Tigers their first invitation to the NCAA men's soccer tournament.
Coach Frank Olszewski watched the selections on television yesterday, waiting for the moment when Towson's name would be announced among the 32-team field. It never came.
"Most assuredly, I'm disappointed," said Olszewski, who was chosen the North Atlantic Conference's Coach of the Year after guiding Towson to a 14-4 record. "Without a doubt, there are some questionable decisions that I would have to feel strongly about."
The Tigers missed out on an automatic bid by losing to Boston University in Sunday's conference championship game. They were hoping for one of the 16 at-large bids, and since two NAC teams were picked last year, the odds seemed to favor them.
So what went wrong?
"It's difficult to come up with any rhyme or reason as to why only one from the conference this year as opposed to two," said Ol
szewski, whose squad completed its first season in the NAC. "There were definitely teams in the tournament that had a lower strength of schedule than we did.
"I wouldn't say it's a big disappointment, but it's certainly a disappointment because I feel we deserve to be there. I'm real proud of the effort of our student-athletes, and I think they deserve a shot to show what they could have done."
The Tigers brought some impressive credentials to the table. They were No. 14 in the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America coaches poll last week and aren't expected to drop out when today's rankings come out because they are third in the South Atlantic Region. The top four teams in each region usually are recognized by the ISAA.
Also, Towson gained some additional attention this season by defeating then-No. 3 Maryland, 2-1. The Terrapins, who are fourth in the South Atlantic Region, made the tournament, as did James Madison, which is fifth.
"I have no problem with Maryland being in the tournament as long as we're in there also," Olszewski said. "They're a quality team, and I know they play a strong schedule. But we should be there right along side of them."
Said senior forward Todd Hicks: "I'm very upset with their decision. I think a lot of the selecting is all politics. UNC Greensboro is 12-6-1 and they got a bid. They're in the Big South, and their conference was rated a C by Soccer America. It's just real disappointing."