WATERVILLE — Minutes after the Thomas College men’s soccer team learned its destination for the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament, head coach Chris Parsons briefly addressed the Terriers.
“This is a bracket we can win,” Parsons said.
The Terriers (12-7-1) will take on St. Lawrence University (15-2-2) in Canton, N.Y. on Saturday. If Thomas wins, it will face either Wheaton College or Plattsburgh State in the second round.
“St. Lawrence is a great team. They’re in the tournament every year. We were able to see them play last year,” Parsons said. “That’s a long trip, but I think we’ll make it a fun trip, like we did last year. I like the matchup.”
This is Thomas’ third trip to the NCAA tournament in four seasons. Five of the Terriers’ seven seniors have been with the team for all three NCAA tournament appearances. Parsons called that experience “priceless.”
“The seniors here, we’ve been twice. You can only gain experience at these tournaments. You have to play better to get there,” senior captain Michael Hand said. “I think the last time (a 2-1 loss to eventual Final Four participant Williams), we really made a good account of ourselves. I think we’ve got a really good chance this year.”
Thomas earned its spot in the tournament with a 4-1 win over Colby-Sawyer in the North Atlantic Conference championship game on Saturday. After a slow start to the season, the Terriers have won seven of their last eight games.
“I feel like this team is a much better team than we had last year, talent-wise. We didn’t put it together early. We had lots of injuries throughout the season,” Parsons said. “The group was challenged and they really put it together. We looked at the postseason as a brand new season, and they lived up to the challenge. We’re playing the best soccer we’ve played all year.”
“We just started to connect, really. We had our downs at the start of the season, but it’s finally clicked. We’ve all come together, and we’re starting to play really good football,” said Hand, who was named Most Valuable Player of the NAC tournament.
St. Lawrence earned an automatic bid by winning the Liberty League title. The Saints are ranked 17th in the nation in the latest coaches poll.